Count Down to LA

Sitting around tying some flies on this breezy day for the upcoming trip to the marsh in November.  We are pretty fired up about getting out there.  Here’s a quick time-lapse video from the keys earlier this year, along with some of the back end of the craziest shallow water snapper session ever.

 

‘Glades and Gatuhs!

Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve posted any updates so I think a catch up post is overdue.  We’ve been down to the to the glades now twice and had a few trips in Galveston in between.  The fishing in the glades has been pretty good.  Most of our fishing has been with friends and family and we haven’t been getting out and chasing the fish with the fly rod very much, but it’s been pretty fun.  Usually this time of year we would be mainly focusing on the outside islands. We have been doing that, but also we’ve been fishing some smaller water and little creeks and it’s paid off with tons of baby snook and tarpon, which are some of my favorite fish to target with a fly rod or light spinning gear.  Summer time is always good fun running from storms and hitting the outside islands when it’s just too hot to not get in the water and cool off a bit.

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A little dock side tarpon action. Z’s favorite past time.

 

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Hanging out on the beach with a typical summer storm coming in.

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Trout in the little wood river.

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Micro tarpon in a micro creek.

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Baby snook action on the fly… always a good time.

The fishing in Galveston has been great for some, but it seems like every time I get a trip out it’s blowing 20 in my face and we don’t have much luck.  I am really starting to come around to this fishery though and have been enjoying it more and more.  My buddy Baron and I were out one day and seeing plenty of fish but as soon as the rod would come back to get a back cast out the fish would spook and blow out from 40ft away.  We poled around and managed to get spooked out fish or refusals on all of our flies.  Then I told Baron, you know I have never caught is a really big trout… at home we call those Gator Trout.  Of course that instantly stuck, well you know because it’s just a hilarious thing to say in your most redneck voice.  As Baron or Amos or whoever he was at this point and I poled down the flat talking about huntin big ole gatuh trout a monster materialized right in front of the boat, and I mean maybe 15ft.  Baron placed the fly in without spooking him and stripped a few times and hooked up maybe 10ft from the bow of the boat.  All I could think to do was scream Gatuh Trout!!!!! as loud as I could repeatedly for the next 5 minutes or so as we wrestled the fish to the boat.  We pulled her out and I continued to do the only thing I could think of which was scream gatuh trout at the top of my lungs.  We began guessing her size and weight and maybe the alcohol influenced this but neither of us thought to use the scale on the bogo grips (which I had boated the fish with) to lay that question to rest.  Instead we decided to measure a fly rod against the fish and later determine that it was somewhere about 29″ in length and then guestimate size somewhere from 8.5-9lbs based on that.  Oops.  Didn’t change that it was a monster and definitely the biggest trout I had been involved in catching.  Have a look for yourself at this big ole gator!

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Dat righ der is one uh dem big ole gatuhs!

 

“Rivers know this: There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

When Bill called after Christmas and asked , “how’s late April for you?”, I figured maybe the family was gonna be down in the area for a visit.  But when a text came through from Billy with dates that would work for all of us to get out to Klamath Falls, Shannon and I were pumped.  So I let the boys know that I wouldn’t be able to be there at the Key’s Spring Equinox trip this year, for the first time since it’s been a tradition in 2006.  But as luck had it, the weather was shit during that time period, and we booked for May instead.  So off to Oregon!

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Fort Lauderdale Airport getting hammered by storms

Our flight at 6:05am was delayed for an hour and a half because of this storm blazing through most of Florida that day.  So we missed our connection in Houston to Portland.  We got off the plane as our connecting flight had finished boarding and they wouldn’t let us on, even though our plane was still at the gate.  I got a text from United stating they were aware we missed our flight and they had booked us on the next flight to Seattle, then on to Portland.  That wouldn’t work as we were to be amtrak bound from Portland to Klamath at 2:30pm that afternoon, and we wouldn’t arrive until 4:30pm.  We began the bargaining process at the gate we were to board to Seattle on.  The lady there told us that our luggage made our original plane and would be sitting in Portland for us when we got there.  There’s no way that was possible, but she insisted.  At that point, I was parched and a bit pissed.  So Shannon and I found a restaurant and ordered up a cocktail and began texting with Billy Z. Aka the Marshian ‘Bob Loblaw’.  He got on the computer and found that if we could get to San Francisco before 9:30pm, there was a flight to Klamath at 10:15.

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So we got on the San Fran flight, AND our luggage mysteriously materialized and actually followed us all the way to Klamath Falls, where we finally landed at 11:15 pm or so, which meant we had been traveling now for 24 hours with no sleep.  But it was nice to have landed in a 24 or so seat plane with Billy parked at the front door of the airport and no one else around.  I guess I hadn’t thought about it prior to that day what it really took to get to where the Z’s live!  Loblaw cracked open a cold Deschutes Red Chair upon arriving at the house, and we bs’d for a cpl hours before a hard pass-out.  We spent the next day sleeping in a bit and touring around Klamath, getting the lay of the land.  Late in the day Shan and I borrowed the van and cruised out to some roads around Klamath Lake.  It was nice and clear out, and there was some good views.

Mount McLoughlin, about 30 miles West of Klamath Falls, OR

Shannon put together a deletable baked ziti for dinner which we crushed by a fire in the backyard.  We emptied a bottle of vino and a few beers before we crashed out, needing to be up around 4:30am or so to follow our guide across the mountains to fish the Rogue River in the morning.  The plan was to fish for steelhead, and the guides rod was rigged with a ‘sindicator’ (which is a bobber) and a long length of leader to a stonefly, and another drop down to some other small fly.  Nymphing.  I hate it.  It’s not much fun to throw, and if you do catch a nice fish you are guaranteed to have a bobber photo bomb in the picture.

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Somewhere, lies a bobber

While I completely understand it’s a must go-to for fishing deeper, fast moving water (well I’m learning, anyway); if given the choice, I’ll go dry fly fishing every time.  That being said I live in Florida, and only get to do this type of fishing every once in awhile, so sling those sindicators I will.  Fishing was pretty slow in the morning, with a few missed bites while getting the hang of drifting the rig properly again.  The Rogue River was very beautiful as it meandered through forest and residential areas.  A few fish were caught on the indicator rigs, but they were very small.  Around mid-day, we anchored up off a fork in the river where the current laid down a bit, and gave it a shot.  While we sat there, flies began to emerge and soon they were everywhere.  Small trout began rising on them, and finally we got our chance to switch things up and throw some dry flies.

We were pretty happy about putting away the sindicators!

We were pretty happy about putting away the sindicators!

I watched a fish rise 2 or 3 times before I slid the fly in and watched it drift through the zone, and the nice little cutthroat did what it was supposed to do.  Unfortunatley it came unbuttoned boat side, but it got the next couple hours going.  Loblaw and I caught 4 or 5 each the rest of the day.  No trophies, all small.  And only one photo, the first one I got to hand on a dry.  After Al’s trip to Chile, it’s not even post worthy, but it’s a first!

Fishing dries is a blast

Fishing dries is a blast

It was a fun day on the water.  It had it’s downsides of not being able to switch up ends on the boat, and no getting off to stretch a little, but all in all it was a fun trip.  Our guide was great, his name was Brandon and he fishes in the fall thru spring and whitewater guides in the summer.  Bill and I did decide after the day, we’d plan our next trout fishing trip around throwing dries..

Loblaw spots a riser, he fed a bunch...

Loblaw spots a riser, he fed a bunch…

The Rogue

The Rogue; Most of the day was spent under heavy clouds, and a majority of the photos had to be processed to get some light and color into them.  Finally, the sun broke through…

The next 4 days were spent hiking at Shasta-Trinity National Forest and the Lava Fields in northern Cal, Lake of the Woods and Crater Lake in Oregon.  The views we had out there were stunning, and the hikes were definitely memorable…

Crater Lake, OR.  Simply Breathtaking

Crater Lake, OR

Shan and Chris on the snowshoes

Shan and Chris on the snowshoes

The Z's and B's.  what a great trip, thanks guys!!!

The Z’s and B’s. what a great trip, thanks guys!!!

Honeymoons and Honey Holes

After tying the knot last November, Z and I finally decided to get the hell out of dodge and check off the first place on our bucket list – Chile.  For as much as we had dreamed about, read about, and waited for our trip to Chile, we really had no concrete plan for our trip and I wasn’t sure how it would pan out. On the way down we somehow got upgraded on our connecting flight from Lima to Santiago to business class and got free VIP lounge tickets at the airport in Lima.  After draining five black labels at the open bar, I lost whatever travel anxiety that was left about leaving work and figuring out what to do when we got there.  Everything felt like it was falling exactly into place.

We spent one day in Santiago and then headed down to Punta Arenas to check out some penguin action and then head to Torres del Paine to do a little hiking and unplug for a while.  On our flight down we met an awesome couple, coincidentally from Houston, who had quit their jobs and decided to travel for a year.  The whole thing struck home and really got the wheels turning.  I have to admit that they have a valid point – if not now, then when we’re 60?  I guess I thought it was only me, but I guess the hustle and bustle of this big city can just really wear on a body, but anyways enough about that.  We spent a day in Punta Arenas and the next day got up to take a boat out to an island in the Straits of Magellan to check out some penguins with our new friends.  I must say that the penguins and I share a special bond.  Neither I nor the penguin was conceived in the most efficient form to live a life as an ocean predator (especially my post-Houston form as of late).  However, whether it’s out of the love of the water, necessity or some combination of both, we’ve adapted to the point where we can’t live any other way.  Also, it’s crazy that these little guys swim all the way from Brazil down there for a summer long orgy and seafood binge and then just swim back home when they’ve had their fill of each.  I find that incredibly admirable.

 

Magellanic Penguins

Magellanic Penguins

Z with the locals

Z with the locals

Afterwards we rented a car and decided to drive five hours north into Torres del Paine.  We got a late start and decided to stop in Puerto Natales on the the way up for dinner.  We had read reviews about places to stay and found a quaint working ranch which also serves as a hotel just outside of the park boundaries.  The reviews had all said that the place was excellent but that travelers should be aware that electricity is only turned on for some hours in the morning and then in the evening, so it is not your typical hotel.  We were a little concerned then when we left Puerto Natales at 8:30pm for the remaining two hour drive that they might be closed or asleep by the time we got there.  About an hour into the trip the road turned into a gravel road.  It was pitch blacks and we were dodging the rabbits darting across the road for the next hour winding through the mountains in pitch black.  It was hard to tell what we were getting into and then finally we came to the ranch where a big English blond retriever looking almost identical to my parents’ old dog came out to greet the car.  A man and woman rushed hurriedly out front to meet us and I felt pretty bad hoping that we had not woken them up.  They spoke no English but they didn’t need any words to express their kindness.  They offered us food and drinks but we settled for some tea and got back to our very simple room to get some rest after a long day.  We slipped off to sleep and had no clue about what was waiting all around us in the morning when we got up.

 

The view from our room

The view from our room

After admiring the view we got up and moseyed down to the main building for some breakfast where we were greeted by a ginger yet incredibly serious Chilean man, who would very seriously and professionally ask me my favorite questions of the trip – “Pan-cakey??? Heuvos???”.  For the rest of our stay si and si were the only two words I needed to know to effectively communicate with him.  After eating some pan-cakey and huevos we got ready to do some hiking right around our hotel which was actually situated on the park boundary of Torres del Paine.  We hiked that first day around the lake near our hotel, then back around a few more lakes, and finally finished up at mountain over looking the Rio Serrano Valley, which was an incredible view.  We broke out our travel wine pouch and plastic wine glasses with removable stems (classy, eh?) and had ourselves a little picnic.  The weather had not been kind to us on the 4hr hike over, but the view had been well worth it.

Wine and picnic break over looking the Rio Serrano Valley

Wine and picnic break over looking the Rio Serrano Valley

By far the largest woodpecker I have ever seen

By far the largest woodpecker I have ever seen

 

After scarfing down some cheese and meat we had bought in Punta Arenas and washing it down with some nice Chilean wine, we packed up and got ourselves ready for the trek back to our hotel where my new friend had an excellent country cooked dinner waiting for us.  I had a few extra servings to refuel myself from the long trek (or so I justified it to myself) and we called it a night.  The next day we woke up with the intent of driving into the main part of the park and doing a hike up to Torres del Paine to see the three famous peaks and lake beneath them.  We got up and headed into the park for another long day hike.  Unlike the day before, it was totally clear outside with almost no cloud cover.  Z and I were both feeling pretty good about ourselves after hiking for about 8hrs the day before and not feeling totally beat down.  Then, the first quarter mile straight uphill slapped us in the face and laughed.  The previous day’s hike had been more or less at a constant elevation.  This day would be a pretty much 4hr climb up with the exception of a few level parts of the path along a river.  The trail had us climbing up a dry mountain face, crossing into heavily wooded areas, along river banks, back and forth across bridges and then finally to a rock covered mountain face where we made the final push up.  I was on a mission to get up to the top in a decent time so we wouldn’t face nightfall during the trek back to the trailhead.  Then, finally Z had it with me and asked “do you have to go so fast! can’t we enjoy it at all, you’re always trying to rush rush rush!”.  No sooner did we stop as she said that and a 70+ year old man came crawling up the mountain past us.  We both had a pretty good laugh, took a break for some water, and then made the rest of the way to the top.  Again, the view was totally worth it.  From what we heard later on we were extremely lucky to experience that kind of weather and most days the cloud cover is extremely low and covers the mountain peaks.

 

Hiking up to Torres on a perfectly clear day

Hiking up to Torres on a perfectly clear day

After a long trek up...

After a long trek up…

With two days of 8+hrs hikes behind us, we decided to take it easy on our third and final day and took a boat tour around a glacier in one of the lakes.  The glacier was unreal.  I didn’t know that shade of blue occurred naturally.

 

Glacier at the Lago Grey

Glacier at the Lago Grey

After our final day at Torres del Paine, we woke up for some professional Pan-Cakey and Huevos and made the 5hr drive back to Punta Arenas for our flight to Balmaceda/Coyhaique.  A friend of mine in Houston had told me that he had a friend and fly fishing guide that we absolutely had to hook up with in Coyhaique.  We had spoken a few times before we left and he said come after March 2nd and fish, I have nothing booked and the fishing is still great.  In our last correspondance he asked if I would need a ride and I said, yeah if you can pick us up from the airport that would be great.  Unfortunately, I decided not to check my e-mail after that message when he responded that we should take the shuttle because it’s about 50km from the airport to Coyhaique and he had a hunting trip planned in the mountains that day when we were flying in.  We got in, and all the shuttles and taxis started leaving and I started realizing that the people were emptying out.  We were the last flight in and the airport was closing down and I started to tell Z hey I think maybe we should hop on one of these.  “Oh you’re just like my grandma Babushka Mashka always worrying all the time”.  So we decided not to take a taxi or shuttle and wait it out, which apparently was a bad decision.  The airport closed down and we found ourselves unpacking the wine, portable wine glasses (best purchase ever), cheese and fruit and having a little picnic in the pickup lane at the abandoned airport.  I enabled roaming on my cell phone to look up a phone number and a short two hours later we had a ride there to take us to town.  Whoops, not the best start but the boxed wine and food had us in good spirits by the time we reached the hotel anyways.

The next day we got up and Brent met us at the hotel.  We got fishing licenses, some killer sandwiches and breakfast pastries and headed out into the mountains.  We pulled up to someone’s property and Brent spoke with him for a little while in Spanish and then we had our access through his land and into a great stretch of the river.  We strung up the rods and hiked down and immediately started whacking trout.  A few rainbows and browns around 20″ were taken, all on dry flies and then we broke for lunch.  We sat down, started eating our sandwiches and of course drinking from our favorite portable wine glasses and then I saw a large form moving up through the river.  I looked at Brent and said hey, check out that big salmon.  He immediately replied – go get that fish!  So I tore up the river after it and threw everything I could at it and it wouldn’t take anything.  I finally got up to a pool that was holding lots of big fish but they wouldn’t eat a thing.  I started making my way back down to Z and Brent and I said hey, they won’t eat anything I have.  He reached into his box and gave me a purple egg sucking leach looking pattern and said try this.  We went back up and there was an extremely fresh looking fish there.  I threw the fly out expecting another refusal as she burst forward with her mouth open and inhaled the fly.  I started fighting the fish and after a while she decided to go back down river, so off we tore after her.  At some point during the chase I totally ate it, and ate it hard on some hard rocks.  I think Brent was hollering something about pain being temporary and I agreed and got back going and eventually caught up to her.  My knee was killing me (but that in fact would only be temporary) and I was way out of breath when we finally got a hold of what we estimated to be in the 40-50lb range fish.  Awesome.

 

A big, fresh salmon for our first big fish of the trip

A big, fresh salmon for our first big fish of the trip

So Z was there and definitely raring to hook into one of her own.  So she grabbed the rod and started throwing at some fish herself and a half hour or so later she had a hold of a massive fish of her own.  With two massive salmon caught, we were both happy to go back to tossing dry flies at rising trout for the rest of the day.

Z flexing what would be later known as the Russian fist, after landing a monster of her own.

Z flexing what would be later known as the Russian fist, after landing a monster of her own.

The next day we got up and Brent met us again and we headed off into the mountains.  This time we went to another property where an old woman lived who was making a very delicious smelling goat stew.  Brent had brought her some wool (she loves to knit) and we sat in her modest home as she cooked her stew over the wood burning stove chatting for a while.  She seemed more than happy to have us go through her property to fish the stretch of river in the canyon behind her home and only asked us if we could bring one fish back for her.  We fished all day in some of the most beautiful back drops with steep rock faced canyons and bright blue crystal clear water and had rising fish all day.

Anywhere, Chilean Patagonia

Anywhere, Chilean Patagonia

Z hooking a fish in a nice little honey hole.

Z hooking a fish in a nice little honey hole.

Trout up close

Trout up close

 

At the end of the day Brent kept one rainbow trout and trotted up the mountain to bring it to the landowner who had granted us access onto her land.  After fishing we scooped up Brent’s wife Jen and they took us for dinner at a local restaurant where we had fantastic local seafood and lamb.  I have no idea what southern hake actually is, but man is it tasty. We had some great eats and great conversation and then turned in for the night to get up and going for one final day on the water.

The last day of our fishing trip Brent told us to check out of the hotel and stay with him and his wife on their farm.  They have a beautiful stretch of land right on the Rio Simpson with a guest cabin at the head of the property and a beautiful cabin that they are still working on finishing towards the back of the property closer to the river.  We put up our bags, suited up and walked back through their property and down to the river.  What an awesome thing to be able to do.  The fishing was great again, but the wind was definitely ripping.  Towards the middle of the day I had to switch to some smaller mosquito type fly patterns to entice some of the rising fish to eat and towards the end of the day we decided to just switch to streamers which was a blast.  Brent had been instructing Z on getting her cast better and better.  Towards the end of the day, with the wind howling Brent and I were BS’ing and looked down the river to Z casting into the wind with such a tight loop and perfectly timed double haul.  Both of us stopped talked and said holy crap, she’s bombing them!  After we had our fill of streamer fishing we made our way back up the hill and to Brent and Jen’s cabin.

A streamer produced trout

A streamer produced trout

Z and Brent with another brown trout

Z and Brent with another brown trout

We definitely felt the great hospitality.  Jen had prepared a bunch of small dishes or appetizers and was getting ready for the main course – tenderloin filets from the red stag Brent had shot with his bow two days earlier.  I will not say that I have eaten a ton of wild game, but I’ve eaten my fair share and I must say that these red stag steaks were some of the best if not the best I have ever tasted.  Great company, great food, and then of course the great wine started really flowing.  Jen and Brent introduced us to the Bote, a leather wine pouch with a restricted drinking nozzle which can be squeezed and squirted into your mouth.  The rules – that your mouth cannot make contact and the further from your face you get, the more style points you score.  The bote went around and around and six bottles of wine later Z and Brent were both passing out all over the place and it was time to call it a night.

I must say that I have not had the best experiences with taking guides fly fishing and always walk away feeling like damn, I just dropped a lot of cash on that and I could have dragged my skiff there or walked my a$$ there and done that myself and been happier.  That could absolutely not be further from how I felt with Brent guiding us.  I have never felt like I have spent my money so well with a guided trip.  It’s nice to have someone that’s just fun and laid back to hang out with.  Secondly, Brent just so happens to know everyone in the town and outside of the town and probably all up and down through the mountains there around Coyhaique (judging from his ability to strike up conversation with strangers).  He knew the rivers well and knew where the best access was and then knew the land owners whose land we’d have to cross to get into those areas.  Also, he is probably one of the greatest fly casters I have ever seen.  If you for any reason find yourself wanting to get down to fish Chilean Patagonia do yourself a favor and look up Brent Taylor and make sure you head out with him, it will be money well spent and you will definitely have a blast fishing with him.

We got back to Santiago with just a few days left and I had one thing on the brain – wine, wine, and more wine.  We spent our first day back in Santiago looking around some of the museums and local sights and then went to a local winery – Cusino Macul. I was not impressed, nor was Z.  It was kind of a let down.  So we decided to hop on a bus the next day and go to Valparaiso, a city on the coast with a lot of personality.  We found our way to a bus and started off on the 2hr bus ride back and Z was busy at work in her lonely planet travel book.  The wheels were turning in her head I could tell.  Then she showed me her grand scheme.  Halfway between where we were and Valparaiso was the Casablanca wine valley.  She said we need to tell them to let us off the bus here.  I was like, uhhh, Z… we are in the middle of no where.  How will we get back?  That’s a bad idea let’s just go to Valparaiso.  Oh Svin, she says, you need to get more adventurous!  Before I knew what was going on she had the bus stopped and we were hopping off on the highway in the middle of no where with nothing but grapes around and a big modern building through the vineyards and on the top of a hill across the highway.  It must have been over 90 degrees.  We scurried across the highway and hopped the median and then onto the other side and started walking down a dirt road towards this winery.  This thing had better be open.  I must say that it looked a lot closer than it was.  By the time we made it to the top and got inside I was drenched with sweat.  Do you have any wine tastings? Yes, we do the woman replied.  I said fantastic, but first some water.  We drank a tasting of 5 wines that blew up my taste buds and totally erased the memory of the poor tasting the day before in Santiago.  Holy crap this stuff is good.  The next thing I knew we had a taxi arranged to pick us up from this winery and take us to two more in the same region.  Looking back, this was probably an ambitious plan, but the wine was good and why stop a good thing when you find it.  We were pretty well blasted when the tastings were all said and done.  We found our way to a little town where we were able to catch another bus to Valparaiso and as Z threw up in the toilet at the back of the bus I knew that our little tasting excursion had been quite the success.  We spent a day in Valparaiso and then it was time to come back to Santiago and say good bye to our honeymoon.  Chile had been fantastic to us.  The people, the scenery, the fishing, and the wine had all been incredible.  I think it’s safe to say that we will definitely be making a trip back, hopefully in the very near future.