Archive for the ‘2011 Trip Summaries’ Category

by: Charles Gehr

Before joining the Fly Water Travel team, I guided for five years on the Deschutes River for trout and steelhead. I was lucky to guide and learn the finer points of spey casting technique and tackle under the watchful eye of long time Deschutes veterans John and Amy Hazel. Guiding over 150 days a year for them gave me a graduate-level steelhead education that I will always be grateful for. In my opinion the Deschutes is one of the great steelhead fisheries in the lower 48 and over the years I really grew to enjoy sharing it with others. I had been away from guiding on the river for two years when Chris O’Donnell came to me with the idea of hosting/guiding a Deschutes steelhead trip with him. Neeless to say I couldn’t have been happier to have a chance to share my love for this fishery again so I jumped at the opportunity. Chris is owner/operator of River Runner Outfitters in Maupin, OR. Although he is one of the younger outfitters on the river he has already established himself as one of the hardest-working guides on the Deschutes providing an incredibly high level of service. Besides that he is just a really nice guy and so I was totally excited to get back on the water with he and his guide crew.

With only a few days left in the month of August we launched three guide boats for a four day float trip. I enjoy fishing the lower Deschutes at that time because steelhead are reliably entering the system and early September in central Oregon means long days of warm, stable weather. This time on the Deschutes also means favorable water temperatures for floating line fishing. True to form, nearly all of the fish on our trip were hooked on floating lines.

Steelhead days on the Deschutes generally start well before dawn and this trip was no exception. We rose early each morning in order to be standing in the water at first light and take advantage of prime steelhead hours. After fishing hard all morning and early afternoon our group would meet at a shady area by the river for lunch and an afternoon rest. By late afternoon we got back in the river for the evening session, fishing until dark.

So…how was the fishing? It was steelhead fishing. Our first two and a half days were what I’d call “normal steelheading”. That is, one or two fish per person per day and someone in the group having a blank day. On the evening of the third day our camp was set up on a very productive run. Comparing notes with the other guides, we had all witnessed steelhead rolling in our camp water. This was the push of fish we were hoping for. That evening the camp water started producing steelhead. Our final morning everyone in the group had caught at least one fish before leaving camp. That last day we all enjoyed productive steelhead fishing. It’s always nice to go out with a bang.

Like most of my best trips I learned a lot on this one, such as:

  • Nick and Nate, guides for River Runner Outfitters, are both passionate anglers and guides who have their own unique skill sets and styles of guiding.
  • Chris O’Donnell is a darn good cook.
  • I still know how to catch steelhead on the Deschutes.
  • I’m really looking forward to fishing with Chris, Nick and Nate more in the future.

See my pictures from this trip here

Chris and I have already set dates for our trip next year. Give me a call if you’d like to join us!

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by Charles Gehr

We’ve all heard the stories that start with “back when I first started fishing here.” Those stories almost inevitably explain why the fishing was better than it is now. I’ve heard enough of these stories to form the general impression that all the known fisheries in North America are less productive than they once were and if you want to find an unspoiled resource you need to fly half-way around the world or, at the very least, somewhere that they don’t speak English. As I made travel plans to do some trout fishing in Canada this year I frankly didn’t believe a lot of what I heard. Tales of two-foot long river-born rainbow trout and unusually large cutthroat that eat dry flies all day, every day left me cynical and using the phrase “Gee, that sounds like the way things used to be.” After a week of trout fishing in British Columbia (with Elk River Guiding Co.) and Alberta (with Eastslope Adventures) I am here to say the stories I had heard were true and the good old days are alive and well.

After landing in Kalispell, Montana I rented a car and drove three and a half hours to meet Cam Jensen in southwest Alberta. Cam runs an operation, called Eastslope Adventures, that guides a number of streams in the Cardston area, approximately 30 miles east of the Rocky Mountains. Rolling, wide-open ranch land stretched as far as I could see as I pulled into the Eastslope Adventures Lodge on the banks of the Waterton River. I had recently heard that Alberta’s record brown trout was caught in the Waterton and immediately inquired about what section of the river the big fish had been caught. Cam pointed to where the river dumps into a reservoir about 150 yards downstream of the lodge and said “right there.” I knew I was in the right place.

Like most of the Rockies, rivers in southwestern Alberta were higher than average for this time of year. Cam let me know during my orientation that they were still floating the rivers in rafts where most years we would spend our days walking and wading. The other guests in the lodge nodded in agreement as Cam explained that, although the dry fly fishing had been off, nymphs drifted under indicators were producing fish and the general health and strength of these fish is such that I wouldn’t mind catching them subsurface if I could just land a few and see how big they are. I told Cam that I wanted to get my gear organized so what sort of tippet would we be using. Cam’s response was that I might hook a few more fish with 3X fluorocarbon tippet but if I wanted to see any of the fish I hooked I had better have 2X. This advice kept me up half the night wondering what lay in store for the next day.

As we arrived at our put-in the next morning Cam explained to us that we’d be fishing while he and his guides got the boats in the water and prepared to float. On my third cast into the water Cam put me in I hooked a rainbow trout that was every bit of 22” and STRONG. Although the fish jumped and took short, sprinting runs I had the definite impression that this animal could have gone anywhere it wanted in the river and was giving me a break. Cam looked down at the water and said, “you’re going to get ‘em a lot bigger and stronger than that!” while I tried unsuccessfully to land my fish.

I spent the next two days trying to land the big, strong rainbows that I was hooking. Although I didn’t/couldn’t land anything over 23” I hooked fish over that size and was nothing but impressed by the fight and strength of the fish I was able to land. And yes, I did hook the big one that Cam was hoping for. It was somewhere in the 26 – 28” range and without exception the single strongest trout I’ve ever tangled with. No, I didn’t land that one either.

After leaving Eastslope Adventures I travelled west into the Canadian Rockies to visit Elk River Guiding Company in Fernie, BC. Fernie is located on the Elk River in a stunning valley in the heart of the mountains with views of snow-capped peaks in all directions. Every time I caught sight of the Elk River I could see productive-looking trout water. Crystal clear water dancing through a well-structured river bottom just begged to be explored with my dry fly.

I fell in love with the town of Fernie my first morning there. It is quite apparent that people are in Fernie because of its’ proximity to outdoor activities. Rafters and kayakers shuttled vehicles and boats around in preparation for a day of adventure while anglers strung rods and repaired leaders in front of the fly shop. Paul, owner of Elk River Guiding Company, pointed me in the direction of a coffee and bagel shop while guides and their clients loaded coolers and boat trailers before heading to the river. Everyone was quick to point out to me that since we’re all there to fish with dry flies there was no need to be out on the water early. Chilly nights where the temperature drops 35 degrees F from the daytime high meant that the river would need a few hours to warm up to a level more conducive to bug hatches. Although my internal steelhead-fishing clock had me up before dawn each day, I quickly relaxed and enjoyed the pace of fishing on “banker’s hours”.

Every time I go fly fishing for cutthroat trout I have to re-learn the timing of the hook set and this trip was no different. No matter that I coached myself to “wait to set” I still managed to miss the first four or five fish that ate my dry fly. This experience is enhanced by the fact that the Elk River generally runs crystal clear so you can see your fish charging the fly well before it eats. Fortunately I had plenty of opportunities to hook and land fish.

Fly selection was fairly straight-forward on the Elk River. When I saw little yellow stoneflies flying around I did well with small stonefly dries. The same held true for mayflies and caddis. At one point while fishing with Paul we encountered an hour-long hatch of green drakes. After going through my box of green drake dries and cripples, we finally found one pattern that didn’t work out of about eight patterns that did work.

Although floating the Elk River in driftboats enables you to fish a lot of water in the course of the day, it’s the side channels that really captivated me and provided my sweetest memories. Aside from being incredibly productive, the side channels and braids provide the intimate “small-stream experience” that many of us miss when throwing dry flies from the front of a drift boat. Wading the side channels really broke up the day nicely and gives visiting anglers a lot of variety in their fishing each day. It’s also a lot of fun to present dry flies to 16” – 19” cutthroat that are actively feeding in two feet of water!

All of my fishing time in Fernie was on the Elk River, but the folks at Elk River Guiding Company have a host of smaller streams in their catalog of guided waters. Three days of fishing in this area is just barely enough to scratch the surface and instill a desire for more exploration. If for no other reason, I need to go back and see how many more green drake patterns I can get those westslope cutthroat to eat!

See my photos from Alberta here

See my photos from Fernie here

Give Charles a call at 800-552-2729 to book your trout fishing trip to Canada next year!

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Our good friend, Peter Humphreys, has just returned from Hodson’s Dean River Lodge with the following report:

“Following the beautiful heli ride in, we arrived at Hodson’s camp greeted by the Dean River, low, clear and in superb shape. On the water by noon, it didn’t take long for fly lines to be drawn tight and reels set a screaming. All the guests landed a fish on their first day and a special mention to Sandra Bracken who landed her first BC steelhead in the first few casts of her trip – congrats to Sandra! This set the tone for the next few days as we realized we’d walked into a river full of fresh steelhead eager to snap at our flies. Several boats reported double digit days, many fish taken on dry flies and greased line tackle. Is there a bigger thrill than raising a steelie to a waking dry? I don’t think so, especially surrounded by breathtaking scenery in the Dean valley. Mid week we lost a day to heavy runoff from an over night rain, but in true Dean style she dropped in quickly and allowed us to fish the following day in tough conditions with low visibility. The camp still managed several hook ups and landed a handful.

Unfortunately it started raining cats and dogs all afternoon and through the night. The river rose steadily. From my cabin in the early hours of the morning we could see head lamps buzzing around in the dark, obviously preparing for very high water, securing boats and making ready. As daylight broke the river was over it’s banks, approaching the cabins and still raining hard. The Hodson’s crew asked us to get packed and put waders on. A plan had been hatched to fly us across to Stuarts tent camp which was high and dry on the opposite hill. Last night, Danny wisely parked the helicopter up behind the new lodge so it was never at risk of being swept away. A few nervous moments as he ran shuttles in the chopper across the river to dry ground. Danny H is one cool cat and deserves much praise for his cool, calm approach. Safely at Stewarts we were welcomed with steaming cups of fresh coffee and cookies. We sat around a camp fire under the tarp and watched the river rising. I’m glad we left when we did. The sound of 100 foot trees toppling in the river, giant boulders blasted down and banks being ripped apart was indescribable – you had to be there to believe it. What an amazing adventure. Thanks to the Hodson’s crew for taking such great care of us.”

Hodson's Lodge before the rain

Hodson's Lodge during the rain

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Dear Fly Water Travel Team,

As I unpack my bags from our trip to Bolivia, I can’t help but reflect on what an amazing experience we had and wanted to write a quick report. In short, we had one of the best journeys of our lives!

The interaction with the local people, fantastic accommodations, great guides and staff, and phenomenal fishing combined to make this trip so special.

When we landed at the Asunta lodge the local members of the Tsimane tribe came readily to meet us. I had brought some candy and my fishing partner brought some cute hair clips that his young daughters had chosen for the local girls. I was really impressed as the older children guided the young children to the front to get the candy. They were so kind to each other. The hair clips were a real treat for the young girls in the tribe. They traded the clips and took turns helping each other put the clips in their hair. I noticed one little girl that had a bag that she kept all of the treasures that the fishing guests had given her. The guides and the staff at Untamed Angling treat these people with the utmost respect and kindness and I could tell the feelings were returned as the local people hugged the guides and the guides joked with and put their arms around the young men in the village the way one would a little brother.

We left the village and took a short boat ride to the lodge. We were greeted with fresh fruit juice and refreshments. Both lodges were beautiful and the food fantastic. The beds were very comfortable and the bug nets kept all the critters out. There were many insects in the jungle and riverside but most did not seem interested in us. The lodges are made out of striking local wood and are a comfortable base when not out exploring the rivers. The lodges are decorated with pictures and art from the local people. I thought that the bow and arrows hanging on the wall were decorative but one night one of the head guides ran in and exclaimed “there is a family of wild pigs close to the lodge,” and grabbed one of the arrows off the wall. He gave it to one of the locals and the arrow was later returned to the wall with blood on it. I understand the locals dined on pork that night!

The guides were world class. They possessed a deep expertise in the local culture, jungle, rivers, fish and fly fishing. At the first lodge we fished with Jean Baptiste Vidal who is the Kau-Tapen manager in Terra Del Fuego when he is not in Bolivia. I had friended him on Facebook a month or so before the trip (highly recommended) and brought him some hard to find tools and a highly coveted copy of the Drake magazine. He and the other excellent guide Fabien had tied us 40 custom flies for $7 each. The flies were the best quality flies I had ever seen and were museum quality. They also fished like magic!

At the second lodge we fished with Fernando and Pablo who are from Argentina. Pablo was incredibly skilled and encouraging when we asked him to help us fine-tune our technique. He got so excited when we made a perfect cast, “that was huge!”, or when we would land a big one. Fernando is a professional photographer who has a deep spiritual tie with the local people, jungle and rivers. He would stop as we hiked through the jungle and point out the trees that the locals used for making rope and hunting bows.

All of the guides are teamed with one or two locals and it was fascinating watching them work together. They respect each other so much and work together as a perfect team. Countless times a native guide would climb a boulder and find fish that we would not have seen even with polarized glasses. We took a break from fishing for a short while one evening when returning to the lodge and watched the local guides hunt wild turkeys. They could call them from the trees with nothing but their voices. That was a really special experience.

The fishing was exactly as advertised. There were a few days where we hiked and fished our hearts out and the fish were spooky or did not seem interested in anything we had to offer. There were also days where it seemed each accurate cast to a sighted fish or structure would be rewarded by a split second strike! These Dorado are ferocious predators and a joy to fish for. The Pacu were more subtle and elusive like a permit and were pure power when on the line!

My favorite two fish were so different. The first was with Jean. We brought our dug out canoe around a corner and came to view a magical cathedral in the jungle river! A gust of wind had blown flowers and fruits down from the trees and covered a pool the size of a football field. About 15 Pacu were gently sipping the flowers and fruit off the still surface. Jean quietly said that he had never seen this many Pacu in a pool feeding in this manner. He said you have traveled a long ways for this experience lets just watch for a moment. Then he tied on a special floating fly he had tied just for this situation and after a couple of near misses, I made (luckily) a perfect cast to a Pacu who went right for it! The fight was electric as the Pacu tore my line out many times and was eventually landed for a quick picture and release. As I was bringing the Pacu in Jean would remind me to enjoy and savor the special experience. What great advice! I hope I remember that experience forever.

The second fish was more of a chaotic burst! I really wanted to catch a big Dorado out of a feeding frenzy and had come close a few times. It is really an amazing experience to be within 10 feet of 5-10 20lb Dorado pushing hundreds of 2lb Sabalo into the rocks on the shore and devour them as white water splashes 3 feet in the air! On the last hour of the last day Fernando and I got our best chance. We had already landed quite a few “Muy Grande” Dorado and I already was considering it a perfect day when we saw a huge rush of white water in a side pool of the Lower Pluma River. Quickly doing the “stingray shuffle” we hustled over to intercept the monsters as they came over a riffle and re-entered the main channel of the river. I made a short cast of maybe 10 feet to a group of 3 huge Dorado who were coming straight at us looking like bullies who had just kicked some serious butt in a neighborhood brawl. One of the monsters took the andino deceiver and rushed straight at me within 6 inches. I did not have a chance to set the hook and did a 180 degree spin as the fish raced past me and did the most aggressive strip-set of my life! The fish took me into the backing in seconds and went airborne 7 or 8 times before we tailed him for a quick picture.

My partner’s favorite fish came 15 minutes later. He hooked a 3lb Dorado and it jumped up on a log and flopped a couple of times. My friend said to Fernando that he was going to shake it off but Fernando said to watch for a second and that there were some huge fish in the pool. As Fernando was finishing his sentence a monster with a 5 gallon bucket mouth full of sharp teeth came lunging out of the water and devoured my friend’s fish! Somehow, the hook transferred from the victim to the huge Dorado. My friend said the take was so ferocious that it actually scared him. After a great fight we took some pictures of the fish and laughed as it splashed us on its way back to the pool. I was laughing as the little 1-2” Dorado kept trying to bite my fingers while I took the submerged video. We all just sat there in the water not believing what had just happened and feeling incredibly lucky to have had the chance to experience it. Fernando taught us to say thank you to the river in the Tsimane language. It was a deeply touching afternoon.

Please feel free to share this with anyone you care to. I hope that I have presented some of the flavor for what this adventure is about.


Give us a call at 800-552-2729 to book your dorado fishing adventure at Tsimane Lodge!

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Ken Morrish recently returned from his first Spring trip to BC fishing for fresh steelhead. See his trip report here.

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I was one of your lucky guests that went to Christmas Island in Feb, 2011.

We had a great trip, and I thought you might enjoy the enclosed picture of a large Giant Trevally I caught. The guide estimated it at between 45 and 50 pounds and I caught it on my 10 wt as it was chasing mullet close to the flat I was fishing. I did not chum for the fish. It was a real thrill and I look forward to booking other trips with Fly Water Travel. Thanks

Kevin Watson, Calgary, Canada

Give us a call at 800-552-2729 to book your Christmas Island adventure!

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By: Charles Gehr

To set the record straight, I am a steelheader. Nothing gets my blood pumping like swinging a fly for steelhead on a big western river with my spey rod. Don’t get me wrong, I love fishing for trout as well. Throwing small, bug-like flies on light tippet gives me a charge that will never dissipate. However, after spending my first week on the Rio Grande fishing for sea-run browns using a combination of steelhead and trout techniques and flies I can honestly say that my perspective has changed.    Continue Reading

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