Sunday, February 12, 2017

Looking Beyond the PDX Sportsman's Expo

The Portland Sportsman's Expo was bigger than ever, and it's just impossible to soak everything in and do it all during the 5 day event. The sheer size of the event brings in people from every avenue of the outdoor industry and is a great meeting spot to put faces to names, and shake hands with people I've networked with over the past year. I got to see a lot of new, innovative products up close and personal for the first time, and put a few in my bag to try out and review. I also found some of my favorite products in new styles and colors, as well as some killer deals on dependable gear.

However, looking beyond the PDX expo, I've got a few more on my radar that are a little more personal events that grant show-goers the opportunity to slow down and absorb a little more from each vendor and presenter. A downfall to the larger shows and events is that it's easy to get pulled away and difficult to focus your full attention on any given person or thing at any given time.

The Willamette Sportsman Show is Saturday February 18th from 9am to 6pm and Sunday the 19th from 9am to 4pm at the Linn County Expo Center in Albany, Oregon.

Even though Scott Haugen gave multiple presentations during the Portland Expo, I seemed to find an excuse to miss all of them while attending CCA events, Warmwater Seminars, and simply losing track of time networking with industry professionals and catching up with people I hadn't seen in a while.

The Willamette Sportsman Show is planning on having 6,000+ attendance this year. Admission is $6 (Kids under 12 are FREE!), parking is free, and Best Western is offering discounted show rates as well. Concessions will be available on-site, but there are also convenient dining opportunities near the expo center. The affordability of the event (as well as the location) offer a unique opportunity for those who couldn't make it to the Portland Expo to see some of the seminars and gear they may not have had a chance to see.

Beyond the Willamette Sportsman show, I'm also looking forward to the Saltwater Sportsman's Show in Salem, Oregon on February 25th and 26th, as well as returning to Albany for the Northwest Fly Tyer and Fly Fishing Expo on March 10th and 11th. The two events cater towards a more specific audience with less of the distractions of the larger shows. Hope everyone can make it!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

PDX Sportsman's Show ODFW Commission Meet & Greet Becomes a Spectacle of Hecklers

My first day at this year's Portland Sportsman's Show started with realizing I hadn't brought any raingear and was wearing tennis shoes for my 1/2 mile walk to the front door through a torrential downpour. After being soaked, I thought a potentially heated discussion at a meet and greet scheduled for the members of the ODFW Commission might be a good way to warm things up.

Crowds formed outside a conference room where the ODFW Commission Meet and Greet was scheduled to take place (Photo by Grant Scheele of Linn-Benton CCA chapter)
As the organizers realized that a divider between two conference rooms would have to be removed in order to sustain the crowds, they made an announcement that there was a miscommunication about the start time of the event and that it was at 4:30, not the advertised time of 4pm. The room was filled with several conservation groups, including Northwest Steelheaders all wearing green hats with the organization's logo, and CCA members wearing red hats sporting their logo as well. Stickers and signs that said, "No more broken promises" were passed around.

The crowd grew restless, and by the time ODFW Director Curt Melcher made the introduction for former gill net strategist Bruce Buckmaster, hecklers made their thoughts known as shouts from several members of the crowd were followed by a call from Bruce Polley of CCA to show some respect to the commission for taking time to meet with the public. You can view the interaction during the beginning of the event, including a call for Buckmaster's resignation here:

Just before the event, buzz about a letter to Michael Finley, chairman of the ODFW commission from Oregon governor Kate Brown began to circulate. Brown asked the commission to reconsider it's decision about the gill net reforms to align the administration. You can read more about that on the NWS editor's blog:

The full text of Governor Brown's letter to the Chair:

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Perfect Storm (Nestucca River Trip) 1/12/2017

With the winter filled with storms that almost seemed to come and go in waves with the changing tides, each one would pass through as the snow from the prior storm would just begin to melt. "The big one" hit Portland like Nolan Ryan tossing an over-sized snowball and taking out an unsuspecting toddler that never saw it coming. The metro area was crippled by the record snowfall, forcing anglers east of the coast range to sit out the thawing period while coastal rivers were dropping into shape.

Fortunately, the storm landed just north of me. Jacob Mikoleit called me up from Newport to head up the 101 in search of winter steelhead. On our drive up the coastline just prior to daylight, the full moon reflected off a calm ocean filled with commercial crab boats running through the night.

Jake wanted to drop into the Nestucca for a float while the crowds were as thin and the fish were thick. Temperatures just below freezing combined with the heavy snowfall to the east of Tillamook deterred a lot of out of town traffic and limited the boat traffic to a couple local guides that were still pretty spread out.

At first light, the boat below us hooked a fish at Foland Creek just as we were pulling away from the ramp. Soon after, as we were floating through a bend in the river, there were two big submerged boulders that disrupted the flow of water perfectly for a resting area where I hooked into the first fish of the day. As the line tightened with the hookset, the fish tailwalked like a marlin, then deathrolled like a nile crocodile before deciding to wave goodbye and take off downstream before popping the hook loose. It was a rude awakening for both myself and the fish that early in the morning, but there was a lot of water ahead of us. The next day I landed a small wild fish in the same spot that was probably around 20 inches.

As we neared Beaver Creek, Jake told me to cast behind the boat as we went by and hit the seam between the creek and the river. As the float hit the water, he was directing me where we would target fish downstream. Looking the opposite direction of my float, I turned around to notice it wasn't above water. I gave it a light tug to see if I was caught in an eddy or on the gravel, when I felt something gradually begin to give way and felt the slow headshake of a nice chrome buck.

The fish must have held onto that bead for a while, which I attribute to Pro-Cure's Anise Bloody Tuna Super Gel. I don't know how much time actually passed between the fish taking the bead and me finally setting the hook, but it didn't seem to notice anything with the first few seconds of pressure, giving me enough time realize what was going on and bury the hook home.

After a good fight, the fish came right to the boat and Jake was there with the net. In the middle of the mayhem of untangling, unhooking, bonking, bleeding, and tagging, Jake noticed another fish roll. He quickly got a small pink worm on a blue jighead into the water while I was doing my paperwork. A feisty hen drained the bobber, and as Jake set the hook. It was almost as if he turned the fish on a dime and brought it racing towards the bow faster than he could pick up line. As the line got tight again, the fish put on an acrobatic display that would have put Mary Lou Retton to shame. I steadied the net as Mikoleit said, "Hold on, she's probably going to freak out again." Much like Olympic gymnasts, it seems like the smaller they are, the more flips and somersaults they can do. Finally we trick the fish into the net and start moving downstream in search of the next one.

Just downstream of the same area, I hooked a bruiser of a buck as we were about to drift through an area that's split into three routes. While we had been moving towards the center chute, the fish made it perfectly clear it wanted to go clear across to the bank, peeling drag to the starboard side. This redirected Jake's course at the last moment through a long set of riffles with little opportunity in the current to anchor up until we reached the end of the island.

Keeping pressure on the fish, we went for a ride, nearly a hundred yards or so free-drifting along with it. The fish seemed as if it couldn't decide if it wanted to sit in the slackwater to our left and be towed, or keep pace with the boat in the current. The few runs it made underneath the raft during this time were a memorable experience as Jake calmly rowed downstream to a point where we could get out and net the fish on the island. By the that point, all of us were tired from the battle, but exhaustion had taken it's toll on the fish. With our adrenaline still in high gear, it accepted defeat and submitted to the net.

Even as the sun starts to get above the trees, the temperature is still in the twenties. Line freezing in the guides made fishing a challenge all morning, and as we continued to drift downstream, finding a patch of sunlight to warm ourselves started to take priority over finding more fish. As we nestled into a decent drift where we could catch some rays, we dropped anchor and he began to offer a buffet of presentations to the hole on the port side of the raft.

After fishing with Jake on several occasions, one of the things I admire most about his fishing style is his determination and the versatility of his presentations. I personally tend to get locked into fishing a bead under a float, and as effective as that may be, I have a difficult time thinking outside that box, even when the tactic isn't working anymore. It's educational at times seeing Jake bat cleanup and hit home runs on a regular basis throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the fish.

After fishing beads for a good 10 or 15 minutes with no expectations other than to warm our fingers and toes while anchored in that sunny bend in the river, Jake switched to something similar to a bobber dogging setup with a yarnie and prawn with a bead leader tied to the hook. When that didn't work, he tried the pink worm again. When that didn't work, he tossed one of his home made spinners usptream a couple times, running it through the hole like a wrecking ball. Then he took a few casts 45 degrees from the boat and swung the spinner below us.

"I don't think anybody's home," I said. "...but I like this spot anyway. It's sunny." Finally, Jake pulls out a rod rigged up for float fishing bait, with a very small piece of hollowcore on the leader that slides down to get the bait into position. "There's still one part of that seam I haven't combed over really well because of the way those cross-currents meet," he says.

While his preferred method of fishing is prawn-tipped jigs, the weighted glob of eggs seemed like a good way for the bait to get into the zone and make itself known in the steelhead green abyss. After getting the drift he wanted, the bobber did a stutter drop and he must have pulled back just as the fish let go because all the rigging came flying back at us. "I got something for ya," he says while adding a fresh bait. After adding a few drops of ProCure's Squid Oil to a fresh bait of eggs, he launches them back into position, and goes right over where the fish bit the first time, but nothing happens. As he extends his drift another 15 or 20 feet, the bobber drains and line starts peeling off the reel.

A good 7 or 8 minutes into the fight, we still haven't seen the fish or gotten much line back, and are beginning to wonder if maybe a late fall chinook had taken a liking to his eggs. Then we finally get the egg-wagoneer within sight but she doesn't come in easy. Using the boat as a break in the current, she camps out underneath the bow, doing everything that gets most lunkers back to freedom. After a few tries getting the fish within netting distance, I leaned out over the bow and in some miracle of a Stretch Armstrong Go-go-gadget yoga pose, manage to get the fish into the net and lift the hefty hen from the water.

After tagging his limit in a hole we had spent over a half hour fishing a half dozen presentations, he made it clear once again that stepping outside the box is an effective method of putting fish into the box. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

ODFW Stocked over 400 Brooder Trout; Here's Where to Find them

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocked 400 brooder trout in December 2016; Here's Where to Find Them

David Woloshun with a Timber Linn Lake Rainbow
ODFW's trout stocking program provides fishing opportunities for recreational anglers, and once the largest brooder trout have been spawned in the hatchery, they are strategically released to various locations around the state in order to proviide an opportunity to catch a trophy sized rainbow trout.

I first caught wind of a tip from Bill Monroe of the Oregonian that lists a few spots near Portland, including the Mt. Hood Community College Pond in Gresham, Blue Lake in Fairview, and Henry Hagg Lake near Forest Grove have been stocked with brooder trout. Hagg also recieved a fair stocking of smaller, but legal-sized keeper trout as well.
Further South, Sheridan and Huddleston ponds, Walter Wirth Lake in Salem, Timber Linn Lake in Albany and Cottage Grove Pond (now known as Row River Nature Park) are also scheduled to be stocked with brooder trout.

If you want to improve your chances at utilizing the state's trout stocking programs, find a trout fishing opportunity near you. Check the stocking schedule. You can also subscribe to recieve updates on trout stocking schedules via ODFW.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Endless Summer (SR 11/07/2015)

I'm incredibly grateful for my teachers that have shared their knowledge with me along the banks of the river and within the pages of magazines like Northwest Sportsman. The potential for product innovation and improving techniques is infinite, and I've been introduced to some very respected guides and industry professionals. I'm fortunate to have made some incredible connections as an outdoor writer that have sped up the learning curve of becoming a versatile and successful angler.

Don't get me wrong, but with that being said, at the end of the day, nothing beats fishing with your buddies. Every river has it's own set of locals that know every nook, cranny and boulder from the deadline to the ocean. The anglers that not only learned the ethics of fishing on that water, but developed their own set of rules through their experiences with their peers.

Stepping outside the box of our "home river," I always feel like the training wheels are coming off and it's time to get serious. However, there's something special, personal, sentimental to making that pilgrimage to the home river, even after you've moved away from it. The tractor beam of nostalgia draws anglers back to familiar waters, reconnecting groups that have drifted apart over the years. A reunion of sorts. The following is a story of one of those outings that happened on the central Oregon coast this November. The names of the parties have been changed in an effort to conceal the identities of those who wish to remain unknown.

"C-dub" taught me how to fish for steelhead. He wasn't there for my first steelhead, but he taught me how to tie a single-egg pattern and fish it under a float, which was a game-changer that got me my first limit. Eventually we developed a group of friends that started filming each other's catches and making short videos for our entertainment during long nights of cooking up fish, drinking cold beverages, tying jigs and flies on the vise in preparation for the next day. The camaraderie of our group revolved around C-dub being the one guy everybody could count on to drop everything and go fishing when the conditions were right.

Nowadays, C-dub resides in Santa Cruz, California catching striped bass, ling cod and halibut. However, the draw of our home river brings our group together each year as the end of the Central Oregon coast Fall salmon season approaches. There's an odd purgatory within the seasons where everything just falls into place and we usually have no problem getting a good stretch of water to ourselves.

While most salmon anglers have put a few on their tags, through the smoker and into the freezer by that time of year, elk season also draws many sportsmen away from the water. It's still a little early for winter steelhead, but don't count them out just yet. Summer steelhead on the other hand are a neglected fishery this time of year. While early summers overlap late winters, the late summers are often swimming with a mixed bag of fall salmon species and the earliest of winter steelhead. Some of the best river memories I have are fishing with close friends during this aquatic phenomenon.

With a few of our friends entering new marriages, careers and parenthood, this November's excursion seemed to be "the good old days" in that present moment. Meeting at the Moonshine Park campground, we rendezvoused and set up camp that Friday evening, chowed down on bear chili and smoked kokanee, rigging up for the morning on the water. A little rain brought the river up on Thursday and it had just started to drop and clear as we showed up to the water on Saturday morning. The Plum Creek Timber Company road is only open to public vehicle access Saturday and Sunday, which reduces a lot of the fishing pressure upstream. A 12 mile drive up the gravel road to the deadline, we rolled several vehicles deep enough to discourage any other anglers from even stopping along the road to check things out. We crawled down into the gorge to that familiar stretch where we had made so many memories before.

As we've all matured and the distance between us and the days we get to spend fishing together get further and further apart, it's understood that up there they've got to do what's best for them, because it's their time. Their time, up there. But down here, it's our time. It's our time down here, in the gorge, grown-up Goonies, stomping the banks for anything that will provide us with the tug that is drug we're all hooked on.

Every species of trout, salmon and steelhead are in the river this time of year, and all of them eat eggs, or anything that even closely resembles them. The action can be unbelievable at times, especially when you're fishing with a half dozen friends or so, searching through every inch of water like a fine-toothed comb. Summers that have held out for rain in deep pools along the lower parts of the river are racing to the finish line, with surprisingly bright patterns and firm-fleshed, quality table fare among the hatchery run. Changes included in the Multi-Coastal species plan that cut the release of summer steelhead smolts in half back in 2013 could mean that this year is as good as it's going to get. These are the glory days we'll be yammering on and on about to future generations of anglers about how good things used to be.

C-dub landed the first fish of the day just after daylight, a hatchery, which took a little pressure off him taking home some meat back to California. I hooked a wild steelhead only minutes later, then our friend "Biggums" pulled in a nice sized wild steelhead a few casts later, "Muskrat" put a hatchery summer on the bank, followed by several triple hook-ups that resulted in action that didn't seem to stop for at least an hour. When one pattern got slow, we'd change things up and the bite was back on again. We hole-hopped to a few other areas of the river miles apart and it was the same story.

A few hours into the morning, several of us had a fish on our tags and we were handing off the rods to each other to keep from limiting out. We headed back to camp around noon and proceeded to celebrate in proper fashion as the rain started pouring down, like a baptism cleansing us of the scent of roe and fish guts, drenching our worries and drowning our problems.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Rain or Shine Giveaway - Part one: Willamette Weapon Lures & Trigger Happy Comfort Grips

I'll be doing give-aways through the holidays to those who have shown their support as readers this year. The first give-away is for two custom-painted crankbaits from Willamette Weapon Custom Lures in the "Sculpin" and "Tualatin Craw" patterns. The detail in these custom paint jobs has been mentioned in my Wide Open Spaces articles Targeting all 4 Seasons of Big River Smallmouth and Big River Smallmouth Tactics. I'm also going to include a pair of Trigger Happy Comfort Grips to make those long days of casting and cranking easier on your hands. I wrote about this product for Wide Open Spaces in the articles, Get Your Hands on Trigger Happy Comfort Grips and 9 of the best Outdoor Products of 2015. To be entered in the contest, you need to like Willamette Weapon Custom Lures Facebook Page the Trigger Happy Comfort Grips Facebook Page as well as my Randall Bonner Outdoor Writer Facebook Page.

You will also be asked to like and share the post made on my Facebook Page about the contest. Good luck!