Jul 13

If I had to choose

I’m sitting here talking to my father-in-law about the steelhead pictures on the walls here at house. We got to talking about the Babine River, the family connection there, the hole named after my grandfather, my one trip there to fish that hole, my daughter’s middle name being Babine, my dad’s 25 pound steelhead caught there and the high likelihood I won’t return.

Steelhead are awesome fish and the Babine is spectacular. They are amazing. So strong. So beautiful.

Not a bad fish.

Not a bad fish.

But… the salt is in my skin. I can’t rinse it out with all the steelhead water in the world.

There is just something about the salt, the shallow, clear water… the stalking of the fish, the raw power of the bones… that’s what I think of now. That’s what’s on my mind.

Maybe I’ll come back around to the steelhead. Maybe I’ll feel the pull in the years to come.

bonefishing andros 2011 Bjorn SWC shirtThis is what I’m thinking of now. This is my paradise.

Feb 13

Interview with April Vokey

To understand April Vokey, you may want to check out her interview over at Eat More Brook Trout, or read this blog post she wrote herself.   I don’t know much about April, but I know that she can fish and women who can fish are a role model for my little girl. April is a steelheader, primarily, as makes sense if you are up in BC. As happens to all sorts of anglers, the salt finds a way in. April was also recently included in Buccaneers and Bones, a crew I’d very much like to be a part of.

Nice fish, April.

Nice fish, April.

April, you are known more for your pursuit of freshwater chrome than for silver bullets or kings. How do bonefish fit into your fishing life?

 Saltwater fishing won my heart some time ago. 

For me (with every fishery) it is the allure of the hunt that fills me with excitement; the stalking, the silence, the necessary precision and ‘no room for error’ tendencies…

Naturally, the ever skittish bonefish keeps me in predatory mode and I have admittedly fallen in love with large solo flat wanderers who peel me straight to backing.

I saw you were included in Buccaneers and Bones. How was that experience?

It was a fun one (a short one as I was only there for three days)… but certainly a good time.

The guys were nothing short of entertaining and each of them was a pleasure to fish with.  The Bahamas is a very special place and this particular location had some beauties strolling the flats.

April and Tom, just two Buccaneers

April and Tom, just two Buccaneers

Is there someone you can think of that had a particularly big influence on your saltwater fly fishing life? Who were they and what did they share with you?

Hmmm, good question.

From a casting standpoint, it was relatively simple to just apply the techniques from freshwater fishing to the salt. 

As far as gaining an appreciation for tides, species, techniques, etc., I have a few friends who come to mind; Travis Holeman taught me to pole a boat and helped me to understand the ocean’s behavior (from the marshes of Louisiana to the Florida Keys flats), James Christmas (in the Seychelles) helped me to understand permit and kicked my butt until I was competent on a 12 weight, Wil Flack in Belize touched my heart with island culture and opened my eyes to the importance of conservation of the flats.

What steelhead skills have you developed which have proven particularly useful for chasing bonefish, permit or tarpon?

Understanding the ocean current and how my fly might react to the flows (no lie, I hooked a permit while swinging my fly) and having creative casts when the wind is blowing in my face.

Ms. Vokey knows Steelhead.

Ms. Vokey knows Steelhead.

I’m wondering if being a woman is a plus or a negative when you head to a place like the Caribbean to fish. Is it a negative, a plus or a mixed bag?

This really depends.  I would say that the number one commonality is the assumption that I won’t be able to cast (though to be fair, I would say that this is the number one assumption of all of us guides towards a new client). 

From a cultural standpoint, with the exception of strange stares from people in the airplane, I don’t receive much more attention than what I would assume the guys get.  I get far more response in North America (both positive and negative).

What’s your go to rod/reel for bonefish?

An eight weight Loomis NRX (or Cross Current) and a Hatch 7 Plus.

Which do you feel is more important when it comes to bonefishing… the rod or the reel, and why?

This is a hard question…  instinctively, I want to say it’s the reel.  Palming a screaming reel on already sunburnt and cut hands simply doesn’t sound that appealing to me.  However, without a properly loaded rod, I risk the chance of a sloppy turnover and that excites me (and the fish) even less.

If I had to choose?  I’ll say the rod as I would rather hook the fish and deal with the repercussions later.

Thanks April. I appreciate the time you took to get this done. Thanks for all you do to promote the sport, the fish and the fisheries.

Nov 12

Back to my roots – Swinging for Steel on the Klamath

Before I found bonefish and really before I found fly fishing I was still an angler. The river I spend the most time on and in during my childhood was the Klamath for steelhead. When I came up to Dunsmuir for Thanksgiving I brought both my 5 wt. for the Upper Sac and my 7 wt., in case my dad was up for maybe chasing some steel on the Klamath.

Turns out, he was up for the Klamath and so we headed off Friday morning up to the Klamath. This was maybe the first time I had fished the Klamath in 8 or 9 years.

We headed up to Yreka and I got my steelhead card and then we headed up to the Collier rest area on I-5 and the pretty decent water that is found right there.

Like old times… swinging flies on the Klamath with my dad.

We were swinging, fishing assassins, and the water looked pretty good. There were plenty of tugs on the line, but those tugs were salmon smolt. Seeing salmon smolt in the Klamath is a good thing as it means there will be future generations of salmon for this once great river. Those dams need to come down. Just say’n.

The anal fin gives it away as a young salmon.

We left that spot after an hour or so and headed over to a tributary of the Klamath where I had once, early in my fly fishing career, caught a 5 or 6 pound steelhead much to my surprise. This is the Shasta River and it is beautiful. It isn’t a large river and you can really get in it and walk around. There are a lot of cat tails along the banks, which can make access a problem, but it is a nice little stream. We didn’t find any of those adult steelhead, but we did find some trout. A rainbow trout is just a steelhead who has not made his move to the salt yet and the trout we encountered will some day head down river and out to the Pacific and if all goes well and they avoid the seals and osprey and nets and all the other predators and obstacles, they’ll return her in a couple years as adults.

Steelhead in the making.

The Shasta

We headed back to the Klamath and went to a place called Tree of Heaven. I had not ever fished this spot, but my dad has put some time in here over the years. My dad missed most of the steelhead season on the Klamath this year due to some health issues, so it was good to see him out on the Klamath again, where he belongs.

The fishing was pretty much the same with some little tugs from little fish. I had a couple decent pulls, but they were likely from pre-salt trout, not from post-salt trout. The biggest fish of the trip was maybe 11″, but that was enough. It was just really good to be out on the Klamath again, swinging flies for steelhead with my dad.

What passed for “biggest” from this day of fishing.

Aug 10

Babine, the book… totally not bonefish related.

This book brings to life more than 50 years in the history of the Babine River, one of the most famous of all British Columbia’s highly regarded sports fishing destinations. The idea for the book was sealed with a handshake on the bank of the river with the two men agreeing from the outset that the story of the Babine had to be something more that just another ‘how to catch them, where to fish’ manual.

via Amazon.com: Babine (9781571884626): Pierce Clegg, Peter McMullan: Books.

A book is about to be released that has a bit of family history in it.  The Babine is one of the  best steelhead rivers in the world.  It just is.  It is a beautiful and wild place.  It is also a place my grandfather, C.A. “Strom” Stromsness fished for many years.  He befriended owner of Norlakes Lodge, Ejnar Madsen, and for something like 17 years he spent a week or more on the Babine.  There is even a hole on the upper river named “Strom’s Pool.”  Some of his letters and recollections make it into the book, as does mention of my daughter with her unique middle name… Babine.

I managed one trip up there with my dad (and thanks to my dad). I don’t recall exactly how many steelhead I managed.  Somewhere between 9 and 12 with my largest being this 18 pounder caught on a skating dry fly… an image that will stay with me forever.

There's my biggest steelhead.

My dad is done being a regular up there.  The wading and long days just got to be too much.  However, his last year up there, in one day, he landed a 20# and 25# fish.  They were just about the only fish he caught all week, but what a high note to end on.

Here is “Strom” from those early days on the Babine.  Sadly, the C&R ethic hadn’t much caught hold (or caught hold at all).  Somewhere my dad still has one of his father’s steelhead mounts… it is called “Good Grief.”

Strom is on the left.