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"

Feb 24, 2015

Fly Tie Night at Andrew's Pizza on March 4th, 2015

Join us for a night of fly tying at Andrew's Pizza, Hood River.  Our focus this round is Spring Steelhead favorites. Watch, learn, participate or just hang out and enjoy a slice of pizza and a local brew. 

Andrew's Pizza, Hood River
107 Oak St.
Hood River, Or 97031
Phone: 541-386-1448

Wednesday March 4th, 2015
6:30-8:30pm or until you leave!

Andrew Perrault | Gorge Fly Shop
Phone: 541-386-6977

Just one block east of Gorge Fly shop

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Feb 18, 2015

Friends and Fishing

Josh Jablow guides at The Lodge of the Palisades Creek in Irwin Idaho

This is about friends more than it is about fishing. Every fisherman needs a good friend that is there to fish with during good and bad times. Fishermen grow and mature as anglers, and having someone to share that growth with allows them to become better anglers. This is just about the one fishing buddy that has had the most impact on me as an angler.

Josh and I have been fishing together for eight or nine years now. We were once roommates after my first year guiding for trout out in Idaho. I was just getting deep into steelheading before I moved out there, but I can say that Josh had more influence in my maturation as a steelheader than anyone else. Chasing steelhead started as more of a hobby that a lifestyle for me. I didn't think that I would miss it until it was unavailable.

I spent two entire guide seasons attempting to convince Josh to go steelheading “out west” with me. There are a lot of travel/fun options for a guide freshly finished with season, but for me, there was only one. In October of 2008, we made the trek across the great state of Idaho from one border to the other. Driving from one side of Idaho to the other doesn't seem like it should be that difficult or long, but it’s a solid 12+ hours from Driggs, ID (on the Wyoming border) to the Grande Ronde River (on the Washington border). It wouldn't be that bad if it wasn't for the giant wilderness that takes up most of central Idaho and requires a long detour around. Ironically, most of that drive across Idaho is done in Montana.

Josh first ventured out with me more out of curiosity than anything. He had heard of these mythical steelhead (unicorns), but didn’t know much else about them besides the usual; sea-run rainbows, hard to catch, etc… After spending nearly two years in the Rockies, my steelhead fever was overwhelming, like a junkie three days too long since his last fix. Trout are plenty of fun, and there are massive trout in the South Fork of the Snake, but nothing compares to the tug of a steelhead on a spey rod. Unfortunately, two years of trout fishing had really dulled my steelhead skills.

Grande Ronde Hook Up!

That first trip we took to the Ronde involved way too much driving and lots of second-guessing everything from which water to fish to what flies to use. We ended up figuring out a few things and actually catching a few fish. I was ecstatic with our results. I mean, we caught steelhead, even if it was just a handful. Success in steelheading cannot be measured in the quantity of fish caught, but the quality of the time spent on the water with good friends, and the improvement of skills. This is a hard concept for a Colorado trout fisherman to wrap his head around. In trout fishing, the more fish the better; as if you catch 60 trout in a day, you had a good day of fishing.

We did have to resort to nymphing for steelhead on that first trip; as we doubted and second-guessed our abilities to catch them on the swing. It just seemed so unnatural for guys who had just spent 150 days staring at bobbers and hopper/dropper rigs to think a fish would come up and eat a fly that in our minds, was presented so poorly that it was swinging in the current. We did swing a couple of runs unsuccessfully for most of the first day, but caught a couple of fish nearly immediately after setting up a nymph rod (2x trout tippet and a #12 prince nymph on a 6wt, right out of the guide box).

During the next two years, we took several trips out to the Upper Salmon River near Challis, ID during the springtime had satisfied our “fix” of steelhead, although that can hardly be considered true steelheading; its more like shooting fish in a barrel with a fly rod. We had one session where we hooked something like 19 steelhead in an hour and a half, none of which took any line or went airborne. After swimming somewhere around 800 miles and spending up to nine months in the river, there isn’t a whole lot of spunk left in them. They tend to pod up and bite a lot more than their fresher kin. It’s a little sad to compare them to anything we have in Washington and Oregon. They can’t help it; they have to eat a little bit to give them the last bit of energy they need to spawn.

We made another trip out the Grande Ronde two years after our first Ronde excursion. This time, we took my new raft three days from Boggan’s to Heller’s Bar. We nymphed from the boat in between swinging runs, but along the way, we ran into Ed Ward and his crew. They gave us tons of advice and set us up with some good water to work, and casually suggested that we break those nymph rods and never use them again. That was precisely the moment that we gave up the nymph rod as a primary tool; and our mutual addiction to steelhead grew to that point where it became unstoppable. Like when an alcoholic admits that they are powerless to stop it, we harness that feeling and use it to make ourselves better.
Camp Fire Tying

Later that day, we got into a run on the lower river that was stacked with fish. Josh and I each caught a couple of fish on a spey rod and dry lines. Neither of us had ever caught a fish on a scandi line and small, traditional flies. Josh had never caught one on a two-handed rod at all. We ended up camping on an uncomfortable gravel bar, sleeping on large rocks and mud, just because we did not want to leave that run. I knew at that moment that I would have to move closer to these fish.

A few years later and one more trip to the Ronde, I gave in to the power of the steelhead and moved out to Oregon. Josh stayed in Idaho, guiding trout in the summertime. He continues to come out every fall, working his way out from Idaho to California, fishing his way up the coast and then landing in the Gorge to hit the Deschutes, Klickitat and some other little spots around here before heading home (via the Clearwater and Grande Ronde of course).

Our adventure this year was probably the worst as far as fishing goes. Josh showed up right as the nasty weather hit in early November (really, the only nasty weather we’ve had this winter). He was there for the only skunking of the year on the Deschutes. We had east wind, dropping temps, dropping barometer and not a single grab with the river all to ourselves, even with the use of a jet boat to get to all the prime water.

Late Season Klickitat
Then the snow came and we had a couple of the coldest days I have ever had on the Klickitat. Icy guides, frozen lines, deep snow and overall miserable conditions made life difficult for a few days there. We had planned on doing a four day float on the Deschutes while he was here, but deep snow and arctic cold put a stop to that. He ended up leaving a week earlier than planned and went back to the Tetons to catch some powder turns and get a jump on tying flies for the upcoming season.

Even if Josh and I don’t even get to fish together all that much any more, even if we don’t catch any fish when we do see each other, it’s always a great time. Steelheading is just as much about experiencing a day on the river with good friends as it is catching a fish. I would definitely not be where I am if it wasn't for him, and he might have never known the joys and frustrations of this lifestyle we call steelheading if I hadn't dragged him out to the Ronde all those years ago.

Josh Jablow
** Winter 2015 update – Josh has just informed me that he will be coming out here in March for a couple of weeks of spring steelheading (can’t get enough). Expect a follow-up article on our adventures in early April.

Josh Jablow guides at The Lodge at Palisades Creek in Irwin, Idaho ( and can be found most of the year either at Grand Targhee Resort or fishing somewhere on the South Fork of the Snake River. If you want to have a great experience fishing for trout on one of the premier rivers of the west, book a trip with Josh.

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Feb 12, 2015

Christmas Island, Ikari House

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"

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