Thursday, August 28, 2008

On the water, on the fish... Tarpon!

Migratory Tarpon at Tarpon Cay Lodge (photo by John G. Sherman)

This summer, the fishing for migratory Tarpon has been strong at Tarpon Cay Lodge. Each year, from June to September the "Silver King" arrives to feed vigorously on the abundant baitfish in water depths of 6 to 25 feet. Most of these Tarpon range between 40 to 80 pounds... however, some much larger have been landed by fortunate anglers. This fishing can be truly epic!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fly Fisherman Magazine: Isla Blanca and Tarpon Cay Lodge

Below is a very informative article in Fly Fisherman Magazine about Isla Blanca and Tarpon Cay Lodge. (Click on each page to enlarge)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Trip Report: Nicholas Dean Lodge - Day 5

Day 5... the last day.

The last day found our spirits to be high and expectations hopeful. We set out as usual with stomachs full from the bountiful breakfast. Overall fishing was tough for most of the day due to low water clarity. There are several major tributaries upriver that added a milky stain to the Skeena. In light of the murky water we still landed some amazing fish.

John with a chrome Coho

Today was the day of silver salmon, the group hooked several green back cohos that annihilated our flies. Several of these fish were over 10 pounds and provided hilarious entertainment as they took to the air, tail walked and cart-wheeled. We were successful in landing several of these fish and took some great shots.

Another great Coho

Mike with a rocket Coho

Among the silvers we also landed several sockeye and pinks, however, we did not find any steelhead for the day.

This entry will continue tomorrow with the final entry for the trip plus more photos.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trip Report: Nicholas Dean Lodge - Day 4

The fourth day of fishing proved to be tough with very few fish moving along the banks of the Skeena. Even though fishing reports from up and down the river came back slim, as a group, we did managed to hook some hogs. Our first spot of the morning proved to be good for the fist few hours while Mike hooked sockeye, pinks and a dolly varden. George hooked a screaming coho that appeared to have better things to do and was never photographed. John was able to fool a few pinks while I was able to dedicate half the day to casting practice…

Celebrating Life...

After a few hours, our guides loaded us up in the sleds and headed upriver in hopes of finding clearer water and grabby fish. The last few days unloaded a bit of rain that gave the Skeena a darker color making fishing a little tougher. We drove upriver and eventually got past the stained water and found a nice place to fish. Within minutes George had hooked a huge fish that broke 20# Maxima… it must have been chrome! After some time Mike hooks a smoking coho that he man-handled and landed! This fish was jet-chrome and not happy to be hooked. After a few more casts George tied into another rocket fish, within 30 seconds 200 yards of backing was gone! We never saw this fish… no jumps…no splash… no signs… it was incredible. After 1000 casts and 7 hours later I finally hooked a fish, it was an emotional coho that burned me. I was royally humbled and royally beaten. All in all it was a great day!

Mike with 10 pound Silver!

Sometimes it is good to look around.

The following is the how and what for fishing the Skeena in August (in general).

Technique: Using various lengths of leadcore, short 20# leaders and simple flies we cast no more than 30 feet from the bank into relatively fast water. By casting upstream the line has time to get the fly down, by the time the fly passes you it enters the strike zone and is in the swing. Fish can grab at any time and they did, sometimes a pink salmon, sometimes a steelhead. It is a cross between nymphing and swinging, our guide Sky calls in swinphing. This technique is deadly on the Skeena because all the fish headed upstream hug the banks of the river. Some of the biggest steelhead we hooked were no more than 20 feet from the shore.

Flies: VERY SIMPLE... sparse, red and small! Many flies will work but red did the trick. Some flies with charteuse and pink did well too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trip Report: Nicholas Dean Lodge - Day 3

After being lulled to sleep by the sound of pounding rain we woke up to the smell of sausages, french toast and were also greeted with the sight of buckets of rain pouring down. After breakfast we split up and headed out. Ray, Bob, Mike and George were headed back to the Skeena to wrangle more salmon and hopefully rope a steelhead, while John and I headed out with our guide Sky to the Copper River. With the raft loaded in the back of the Ford F-350 XL we headed for the river in hopes of seeing semi-clear water. Last nights rain had a good chance at blowing out the river, by the time we got a good look at the water Sky determined that the Hershey chocolate like color was unfishable. Time for plan B! Plan B was another river (Fish River, aka a secret) no too far from the copper.

Fishing this river was not for the faint of heart, it was a challenge with its steep walls, quick water and tight casts. To get to the runs we charged through fast water, jumped from rock to rock and even did a little accidental swimming, all this during a downpour... love it. After reaching the first pool our guide set us up with sink tips and huge flies (pictures to come) in hope of triggering a chromer. After struggling a while to get the presentation just so we finally hooked a fish, a nice steelhead! After more rock hopping, white water wading and bushwhacking, we came to the next spot. By now the river was rising and beginning to turn off color. John was up... after getting the right swing to come around he got a grab... missed it, doh! With the water rising and becoming harder to fish we headed out, and it was no easy out! Just read the first part of this paragraph in reverse and you'll get the idea... All in all we had a great time. I am sorry to say we have few pictures because of the rain (no waterproof camera).

Back the Skeena we went with hopes of giant chrome. After a short drive and mild walk to the river we began casting… more like began hooking. John hook and lands a nice sockeye, then another, then something hit his fly like a freight train and in no time was in backing. This was a huge steelhead that while in the heavy current decided to go upstream and subsequently break him off! DANG! Not too much longer I got the grab of a lifetime… it shocked me and again in no time I heard my nail knot tear out of my guides. Huge chrome was hurling itself out of the water doing cartwheels and blistering runs. Sky came blasting down the river to chase the fish. Eventually we landed it and below you will see the proof! While catching my breath John hooked another rocketship that also handed his fly back. Some time went by then ANOTHER! This fish didn't want to stay around either. All in all John hooked 5 chromers, 4 of which would have been legendary... they still are! That’s enough about us, the rest of the gang has a killer day as well.

Out on the bars of the Skeena the fish were on the grab, on the move, and Bob was on a roll. He hooked several hot coho, pinks and even hooked a beefy steelhead.

George kept things on the level landing this perfect coho, these fish are nuts!

Mike landed a studly steelhead amongst many salmon. Ray hooked the beast of the day, a great chromer that put her dukes up. Sadly, the fish slipped out of the guides hands and headed up river, way to go Ray.

For tomorrow look for details on the flies, techniques and more pictures!

On the water, on the fish... Tarpon!

Terry Thomas of Sacramento, CA with a resident Tarpon at Isla del Sabalo

This past month, Isla del Sabalo has been kicking out some very large "baby" Tarpon. Anglers have been reporting that these resident Tarpon are averaging 15 - 30 pounds on some days. This is an incredibly healthy fishery, and it shows this quality by the massive girth of these Tarpon. Gin-clear flats to extensive mangrove-lined river systems, this destination is truly amazing!

Sam Dasher of West Sac, CA with a "baby" Tarpon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trip Report: Nicholas Dean Lodge - Day 2

The day began with a hearty breakfast of blue berry pancakes and expectations of a great day. Just as the day before, we made our way out to the Skeena in pursuit of chrome commanders. The weather was spectacular… for a picnic. After we landed at our first spot of the day our group spread out and began working the water. Like clockwork I heard FISH ON from down the bar, Ray was hooked up on a pink salmon. Not too much longer another call came out, FISH ON, yet another pink hooked by John. We thought the day was going to be banner, unfortunately, that was the last of the action we saw for a while. After some time of not hooking any fish our guides had us load up and we moved to another bar.

It was some time before we hooked another fish at our new spot. The day was tougher, we meticulously worked the water with little success. Fishing on the Skeena is very unique, the fish come to you! For most traditional steelheaders it is hard to deal with because you literally wait for fish to come to you. The fish were not on the move like they were the day before. As we continued to fish we did pick up a fish here and there. I must say that during the doldrums there was plenty to laugh and joke about (pronounced aboot) with the guys. The group is made up of an eclectic and eccentric group of guys, Mike, Bob, Ray, George John and myself… what a group. My sides hurt from laughing with these guys, it does help pass the time from when fish are moving through.

By later afternoon we still hadn’t hooked many fish and then out of nowhere, on the same cast made a thousand times before, John hooks up with a screamer. In no time he was in the backing with a spastic steelhead bound and determined to spit the fly. After an honorable battle John concurred, and at his feet lay a black and white bullet. This fish was a magnificent specimen, with a cut lateral line and not a spec of color on her. What a hoot!

Shortly after his steelhead was landed another kamikaze chromer was hooked and immediately ran for the opposite bank. This fish was landed, photographed and released. The action started to pick up a little with more salmon being caught, with the action came a few rain showers and some spectacular skies.

Overall the day’s goals were met, we had a great day and caught fish. Dinner and the evening gathering was a true highlight with excellent food and hilarious conversations.

Tomorrow is another day, currently it is raining buckets and a little cooler. If the rain holds off some of us my head to the Copper river to swing for behemoth steelhead. Tomorrow is another day….

Monday, August 18, 2008

Trip Report: Nicholas Dean Lodge - Day 1

Fishing Day 1:

I am happy to report that our first day of fishing was a success! After a great breakfast of eggs, sausage, fruit, coffee and juice we headed to the river. The boat ramp was 10 minutes from the lodge and in no time we were on the Skeena and on step to the fishing grounds. During our 10 minute boat ride we were immediately taken back by the enormous mountains that surrounded us. Not to be outdone was the incredible Skeena River, with its glacier green tint, wide gravel bars and tremendous size. It is hard to convey to you how truly giant this river is. As we arrived at our fishing spot we were greeted with bald eagles and a few black bears. As a few clouds passed by they graced us with a light sprinkle… the mood was perfect.

Within minutes one of the guys in our group was hooked up on a pink salmon, before that fish was even landed another fish was hooked. The group was doing very well on pink, sockeye and coho salmon. By 10am we had plenty of action on salmon.

As I made another cast no more than 30 feet into the river the action turned aerial! A chrome ghost was hooked and the game was on, in less than 30 seconds I was looking at the silver of my arbor. As I ran downriver and gained line back the fish went crazy with cartwheels and huge leaps. After a great battle the fish surrendered its sea lice ridden, chrome spectacle of a fish.

Skeena Steelhead

As the day went on we continued to hook salmon of all species and 3 more spectacular steelhead. Some of the highlights of the day included hooking and landing several beefy coho salmon. These fish were hot as they peeled line, jumped and sometimes handed the fly back to us.

Tomorrow is another day, perhaps we will tangle with the infamous 20 pounder!

Skeena Coho

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Trip Report: Nicholas Dean Lodge

Arrival Day:
After an easy flight and a short drive from the airport to the legendary Nicholas Dean Lodge; we were met by the operations manager, Chad Black. Within minutes our luggage was whisked away to our rooms and dinner was soon to follow. While they prepared our dinner the group had a chance to walk around the lodge and unpack.

As I walked through the lodge I saw dozens and dozens of trophy steelhead pictures and it was hard not to imagine myself in one of those picture frames. Every room and wall has evidence that this is the land of huge steelhead.

Dinner was excellent; steaks, baked potatoes, salad and cheesecake for dessert. What a great way to start off a trip, well fed and well rested for tomorrows first day of fishing.

Check back tomorrow for Chrome Report 1…

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Upcoming Trip: Nicholas Dean Lodge

Sunday marks the beginning of my adventures north to fish the fabled Skeena System with the crew at Nicholas Dean Lodge in Terrace, British Columbia. I will be hosting this trip in pursuit of some of the wold's largest steelhead. While we are there we anticipate hooking salmon while looking for chrome ghosts.

The numbers are in for the Skeena... fish counts are higher than they have been in years. Check out the data.

I will be posting daily reports, pictures and stories of our adventures. Check back soon...

Down with the fish... Snook

Snook release by Tarpon Cay Lodge guide Carlo (photo by John Sherman)

Some years ago,... in an effort to "get-an-edge", I put on a snorkel mask to get down with the fish, eye to eye. My intent was to learn where the fish were holding and how best to present to them,... but what I gain from this experience was much more than just fishing prowess. I immediately gained a greater appreciation for fish in their own world. I had found that their beauty was intensified underwater - colors more vibrant, fins more erect, and a backdrop of their natural surroundings.

Here are a couple of nice underwater images of Snook at Tarpon Cay Lodge. These images were shot by my good friend and professional photographer, John Sherman.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Angling Moment: Sharing this wonderful sport...

Jamie Lyle of Truckee, CA sharing Tarpon flies with local kids at Isla del Sabalo
(photo by John Sherman)

During our worldwide travels, we have an incredible opportunity to share this wonderful sport of fly fishing with others. As traveling anglers, we are merely guests at a destination that locals call "home". Take a moment to share our sport with the local people. You will find that most respond with smiles of curiosity and intrigue.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Angling Moment: Tarpon Blow-Up!

Ken Hanley with a topwater "blow-up" grab at Isla del Sabalo

One of the most exciting aspects of fly fishing for baby Tarpon is their willingness to eat on top. Fishing top-water flies often results in an adrenaline-pumping BLOW-UP grab! The entire moment is a sensory overload, as you see, feel, and hear the explosion of water at the end of your line... Fish On!