Friday, July 26, 2013

Searching for Elivis

Elvis Shaking Dem Hips
What do two steelheaders do when they find themselves in Tennessee? They search for Elvis of course. ….. Well not the hip shaking, pelvic gyrating, ladies’ man that made Memphis famous, rather the head shaking, line ripping, non-anadramous red-headed step child to the Northeast Striped bass.

Yes, Tennessee is well known for Bill Dance and BASS Pro Tournaments, Tailwater Browns and Rainbow Trout and numerous warmwater species, but Striper fishing has always intrigued me. Though not native to the area, this non-native species has been introduced and flourishes in many of the rivers and reservoirs of the South. The Tennessee state record is sixty five pound six ounces and forty to sixty pound fish are caught in the Cumberland River every year.

Striper Photo: Brian Chou

Stripping and swinging flies for stripers is not an easy game and though similar to their Northeast cousins, it is not the same, or at least that is what I have been told. Striper fishing has always been on my list regardless of location. Fishing for them as a child, I never caught one of size or on the fly and finding myself in Tennessee I finally got my chance.

This year the rivers and reservoirs were filled, dams were pushing water higher than normal and decreasing our odds for fishable water.  Weird, kind of used to them odds. But despite the conditions, Brian and I were able to find some fishable water with some assistance from our friend Mike Anderson.  I have heard striper guys are a lot like steelheaders in the Northwest and after all, I had to give it a try.

Mike Anderson Photo: Brian Chou
Brian had fished for stripers in the Northeast, but fishing for them in Tennessee was a little different. From what I gathered it falls somewhere in the middle of streamers fishing for trout combed with tactics gathered from Northeast striper fishing. Oh that and our flies where larger and had the colors of shad and rainbow trout that were stocked in these river systems.  The local live bait fishermen also used trout for stripers, ugh. Over the years it appears that they have learned to love the stocking truck.

Check! Photo: Mike Anderson

The patterns used were basically clousers hybrids, but with the size of saltwater flies I had only fished in Baja. They were tied on 4/0 hooks with mega large dumbbell eyes. The retrieve was purposeful and erratic with pauses between every other strip.  These flies were matched with 9-10 weight fly rods and 350-500 grain shooting heads with 20-30 pound leaders.

Fishing was tough but despite Elivis’s perfect conditions to hide, we found a few. I wish I could compare them to their anadramous relatives, but found the fights to be full of heavy head shakes, strong steady runs and at times, backing. Though 9-10 weights were heavy, on the larger fish, the backbone helped to gain leverage, especially if one sounded under the boat. Though they never jumped, the smaller ones would thrash a lot at the surface.

Yes, the Fish Was on the Other Side of the Boat Photo: Brian Chou

This is easily a fishery I wish I could find the opportunity to fish more. Tennessee really does have a vast variety of fishing opportunities as well for numerous species to catch on the fly.  The cultural heritage and Country Music History makes of the Tennessee a well chosen location to vacation with family and friends and one I will return to in the future.  Searching for Elvis was just the icing on the cake for a great family vacation.

Elvis Photo: Brian Chou

On another note, not that far away.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dry Fly Bob

Back in 2005, for the first time, I walked into a run on the Grand Ronde River with this spey rod that I had been tinkering with for a few years. Back in the good old days of the RioWindcutter matched with my first spey rod (which I could barely cast at the time) and a box full of crappy wets, leeches and nymphs.

As I walked down into the run I looked down stream to see a line of guys and gals swinging flies through a picture perfect run. As I get to the water an older gentleman, about my father's age approaches me and with a raspy voice and cigarette in hand and says, "You know you don't need sink tips and those big ugly flies to catch steelhead. All you need is a floating line and a skater." That would be my first interaction with Bob Evans, a guy I learned to appreciate over the years who earned the nickname Dry Fly Bob.

Over the years I would camp along the river and spend many days fishing the Ronde, Snake and Clearwater, but one thing that I could always depend on was a report from Bob when I got to the area. Though it took a few years to earn respect from Bob, it did not take long to get to know him. One year while camped upstream from him and spending several cold days alone on the river, I got to spend several mornings standing next to him in the early morning before the sane man got up to fish the river. Standing on the banks, headlamps on in the wind, Bob and I got to chat about life, fishing, baseball and family. This became a tradition over the years.

Bob though stubborn, and opinionated was actually opened minded despite what came out of his mouth to those dragging flies or fishing bobbers. He made it a point to let me know that it didn't really matter how one fished. Bob's style or search for what he perceived from swinging flies was something personal. Something that I see more and more myself these days with less time on the water then past. The search for perfection in that moment or what it meant to him far surpassed catching  fish, rather achieving the gratification of challenging oneself in the moment, understanding the process, and in the end, understanding oneself.

Recently,  I heard the sad news of Bob's passing. Bob passed away while chasing a riser somewhere on his beloved Henry's Fork in Idaho.  I did not know him well, but fishing the Grande Ronde will never be the same without him. I learned a lot from Bob, about steelhead, myself and of course dry fly takes. Though this seems like dribble in my mind trying to put together what Bob meant to me, I know he will be missed by all that had the pleasure to know him.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hardy Bought Out

Chrome St John,  My Favorite Hardy Being Put to Work. Photo: Brian Chou

Well like all big companies, there is always the chance of being purchased during periods of economics. Hardy recently got purchased by a US company. Read more care of The Guardian.

Monday, July 1, 2013