Another amazing adventure in the Brazillian Amazon! Ultra low water conditions on the Rio Agua Boa made for some epic sight fishing for huge peacock bass and an incredible array of other species. Before taking up the oars again around here, let’s take a quick look back at some of the highlights from the equatorial rainforest. Enjoy!
Fishing, meanwhile has been pretty good. When balmy weather and stable river levels coincide, for a few hours of the day, sometimes for a few minutes of a day, McKenzie redsides have been biting.
My father told me, as he handed me my first fly rod back in 1977, “Point this rod, and it will lead you to some of the most beautiful places on earth.” At the time, I was picturing hopping on my bike with my buddy, Kevin, and pedaling the mile or so out to Oak Creek to try for some native cutthroat. My 7-year-old imagination could not possibly have envisioned the panoply of fly fishing adventures in store over the coming decades.
Now looking back over all the years and all the people, places, and fish I’ve known, I see how truly prophetic Fred’s words were. Following my fly rod has truly been a guiding principle throughout my life. And it has yet to fail as a divining rod for beautiful waters and true experiences.
2014 has been a crystalline example of this theme. And as we look ahead to another year of fly angling excitement in 2015, I want to share this look back on a year of globe-trotting, rod-bending, reel-screaming, wet-wading, finger-numbing adventures for the ages:
2014: The Year In Pictures
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January began with a persistent lack of rain in Western Oregon, leading to some of the best fly fishing for winter steelhead in recent memory on some of our larger river systems.
In February, I received an unexpected last-minute invitation to work as the host at the legendary Agua Boa Amazon Lodge in northern Brazil. After discussing the prospect with my family, and (of course) with Gumby, I decided I had to act on this possibly once-in-a lifetime opportunity: five weeks in the Amazon Rainforest fishing for peacock bass, bathing daily in DEET, dodging cayman and jaguars, and drinking caipirinhas.
This trip was truly mind-blowing! I made some great new friends, caught several fish-of-a-lifetime, and added a new continent to my angling life-list. I even managed to avoid being eaten by a cayman, despite a couple of uncomfortably close encounters.
Returning in late March, all aglow from the trip to Brazil, I had little time to decompress before hopping another cross-country red-eye for a long-planned trip to the Bahamas for some bonefishing with my father. This was his first try for the elusive ghost of the flats, and a return after an absence of some 20 years for me.
Despite some sub-optimal weather, we had a wonderful 5-day stay at the exquisite Mangrove Cay Club on South Andros Island. And we each got to catch quite a few bonefish together in a new and certainly beautiful location.
On returning from these exotic locales, I settled in for the heart of the guiding season here in Oregon. No matter where I have been fortunate enough to travel over the years, I am still constantly reminded of the reason we call this place home. Oregon is an anglers’ paradise on par with anywhere in the world. Some highlights from the Spring and Summer on the home waters:
Late April and early May saw some great fishing for trout on the McKenzie followed by the annual extravaganza that is the Deschutes River Salmonfly Hatch. Big, explosive, fast-water rainbows and bushy dry flies shake the winter doldrums from the hearts of anglers who mass on the riverbank (like the salmonflies themselves) to enjoy this incredible orgiastic phenomenon.
After the fervor of the Deschutes, June on the home waters of the Eugene area is a welcome refuge, playing host to quieter times and glorious fly fishing for trout and summer steelhead.
In July, I wedged a few days out of a busy guiding schedule to take the family on a camping trip to central Oregon’s East Lake. It was a wonderful relaxing time in one of Oregon’s prettiest places. Fishing was casual yet compelling. A simple assortment of dry flies and an heirloom 5 wt remained in the boat for whenever trout were rising within casting range.
The heat of August coincided with some of the best summer steelhead fly fishing of the year here in the Valley. Spey casting and swinging flies in the cool of the morning, punctuated by a sharp tug, a powerful line-stripping run, and the arcing leap of a bright steelhead: is there any better way to start a day?
Towards the end of August, I packed up the duffel bag for my 17th annual month-long expedition to Outer Mongolia. It is hard to imagine a year without this trip anymore. Back in 1998, when I first stepped into the waters of the Selenge drainage, I never would have believed that I would still be returning to this place all these years into the future. The very real possibility of encountering the fish of a lifetime on every cast makes this a true apex for my guiding year.
Thanks to early conservation efforts by Sweetwater Travel Company, and diligent guidance by Charlie Conn of The Taimen Fund, taimen are still not only surviving in Mongolia, but in many cases, populations are thriving.
This season renewed my faith in the resilience of this incredible yet vulnerable fishery. One day on the river was a case-in-point: A fellow Oregonian and I shared a day of incredible taimen action in which he rose 20 taimen to a mouse pattern and landed a dozen, all around three feet long. It is days like this that remind me how lucky I am to be a fly fishing guide. Any day can be the most memorable of an angling lifetime.
Returning from Mongolia for a busy October, I was again happy to be home and guiding for steelhead and trout. The cooler weather and stable river conditions consistently make this some of the finest fishing of the year. 2014 was no exception. A multi-day float on the Deschutes was epic.
As the weather changed in early November, and the leaves filled the rivers, attention shifted to the coast and fall salmon fishing. Part “busman’s holiday,” part guide opportunity, late fall salmon fishing is a great way to wind down the year.
Days spent with friends, putting away some fresh filets for the winter, and nursing sore muscles from pulling as hard as you can on big bright fish, all make it easier to face the coming months of winter.
Taken as a whole, the 2014 season truly embodied my dad’s promise of so many years ago. As it has for most of my lifetime now, my fly rod pointed the way to an incredible array of unforgettable experiences. As this year winds to a close and we unfurl the promise of 2015, remember to follow your fly rod toward all the memories yet to come.
Peace! — MR
In between spates of rain and amongst the throngs of anglers, salmon fishing has been excellent at times. Chinook action has been the mainstay of late. Although it is a maddeningly volatile fishery, the payoff is always worth the effort and flexibility required to be there when the elements align.
Meanwhile on many nearby drainages, we have enjoyed a bumper crop of returning cohos. And while catching them has been awesome at times, the sheer numbers of fish have been amazing. In the upper reaches of some streams, salmon have been so thick, you could literally pet them.Each year, the Fall return of salmon to Oregon’s coastal rivers is an event worth celebrating. It reminds us that the natural world is still in order. Embodied in these creatures, the Pacific Ocean still reaches deep into the crags of rainwashed valleys in the heart of the coastal mountains.Fish On!
Another fantastic October of steelhead fishing has come to a close here in the Valley and east of the Cascades. Fishing was solid throughout. In between steelhead adventures, the trout fishing was also productive, with lots of big fall redsides finding the bottom of the net. As we transition into winter salmon and steelhead, please enjoy these highlights of the fall season:
Another season in Sweetwater Travel Company’s Mongolian Taimen Camps is in the books. After last season’s high water and tougher fishing, this year the taimen population on the Eg river proved to be healthy and resilient. With perfect river conditions and stable weather, the 2014 Fall season reminded us why this truly is the world’s best taimen fly fishery.
This season, I was joined in the lower camp by Oregon homey and second-year taimen guide, Matt Carter, South African Seychelles veteran, James (Jame-o) Topham, Big Fish Bayaraa, and Ganzorig. Matt, Jame-o, Bayaraa, and I decided to take Bayaraa’s jeep for the 13-hour drive out to camp from Ulaan Baatar.
As we finally rolled into camp, the boys shook off the long drive by flexing their tenkara rods (newly acquired from the “black market” in U.B.) in front of camp. It was great to see that the river was in prime shape and that the grayling and lenok were abundant.
Week 2: The Dries Have It!
Our first group was composed of the original six Texans who had diverted their trip last season when they learned of the blown-out river conditions. Literally pulled from the airplane, they had audibled to a fall-back adventure in Alaska. That trip had been a success, and now they were stoked to finally be wetting lines in the Land of the Giants.
As the week progressed, we had some amazing fishing. One day, however was unforgettable: I was guiding Kerry Hagen from Portland, OR, a single angler that had joined the Texans for the week. Kerry had so far experienced less spectacular fishing than the others and wondered aloud if he was doing something wrong. I advised him to hang in there (what else can you say?), that his day was coming.
The day was cloudy and overcast. One of the Texans had reported finding a dozen dead mice in a weedbed near one of our favorite log-jam pools downriver the day before. Hmmm. . . Additionally, the nightly dance-party of rodents (and the morning’s casualties) in the cabin suggested that this might be a big rodent year.
Tying on a fresh mutant mouse pattern, Kerry and I headed down to the aforementioned log jam and waded in. What happened next still defies description. Kerry quickly rose, hooked and landed a nice fish in the 3-foot range, his best of the week so far. And then, it happened: taimen began rolling and porpoising in the pool. Kerry cast again and immediately hooked and landed another 3-footer. In the course of the next 30 minutes, Kerry rose 7 more taimen including a couple pretty big ones, landing 5 more, all around 3-feet long. The taimen were clearly interested in the mutant mouse fly.
Finally, the pool quieted, and we moved on, both of us shaken and shaking from the experience. Kerry went on to raise several more fish throughout the afternoon landing so many that I was popping three-footers off the fly like they were McKenzie planter trout. By the end of the day, Kerry had raised 20, hooked 16 and landed 12 taimen. The mutant mouse was a little chewed up after the experience, and it had earned a new name: the “Hairy Kerry.”
By the end of the week, the group’s official tally was an astounding 119 taimen landed. Even though everyone landed trophy-class fish for the week, the true giants risen and lost haunted our nightly debriefing sessions in the cabin. Truly a historic week!
Week 3: Elvis is in the Building
Jame-o left us after the first week to head back to Norway to return to his regular job guiding for huge Atlantic salmon. Matt, Bayaraa, Ganzorig and I remained in camp to handle the smaller group of four anglers for the week. No matter what you are expecting when you come to Mongolia, it is still a bit disorienting when your guide ties on the first taimen fly for the afternoon session.
This week the fishing remained strong. One angler landed a 42″ trophy in the Home Pool in front of camp on the first afternoon. While several very big fish rose to flies during the week, none made it to the bottom of the net. Matt and I were co-guiding when we both witnessed the rise of a giant taimen (well north of 50 inches) to a dead drifted Hairy Kerry. Despite our combined “fervent encouragement,” the fish was not hooked. This was the theme of the week, with the guides lamenting the “one(s) that got away,” every evening.
Each day dawned foggy and cool with gorgeous afternoons and some amazing sunsets. And the week settled in to its own rhythm.
This was a mellow week, with days off for each of the guides, and trips to town and visiting local families for one of the more adventurous guests. I got to go out one afternoon with Ganzorig and our chef, Sahknaa, looking for pike up one of the sloughs near camp.
The next week’s guests hailed from Sao Paolo, Brazil, and most spoke almost no English. I foolishly said I knew Spanish, leading many of the guys to speak nothing but Portuguese and Spanish with me, while the other guides got to speak English. These were great guys. Four of them were serious anglers, good fly casters with lots of experience chasing big fish in cool places around the world. The other three guys (the “three amigos”) were total novices in all things fishing (let alone, fly fishing).
Fishing this week was tougher. While the serious guys got after it, enduring the punishment and emotional challenge of taimen fishing, the “three amigos,” had it dialed: trips to town and the inscription rock, visiting local families, riding horses, some days fishing a run or two in the morning, followed by lunch and a nap back in camp, maybe fishing another run in the evening, or wandering the gravel bar looking for cool rocks. They rose a surprising number of taimen despite not really working that hard.
And ultimately they were rewarded with taimen encounters that will stay with them the rest of their lives. On the second-to-last day out, group leader, Jose “Big Plum” Godiano had a great afternoon, landing a pair of trophies on surface flies, one of which was the best of the season.
At the end of the Brazilians’ week, I packed my gear and hopped on the chopper to head home. Leaving the boys in camp for one last week of guests, I turned my attention to family, friends and fall fishing in the Valley.
Coming through Incheon Airport in South Korea, I was reminded that our economic society has become increasingly specialized. What do you get for friends who already have everything? Look for a store that caters to their specific needs.
Once again, the 2014 Fall Taimen Fishing Season in Mongolia affirmed my faith in the fish, the fishery, and the future. Conservation efforts implemented by Sweetwater Travel Company and Hovsgol Travel Company, and carried today with religious zeal by Charlie Conn at the Taimen Fund, are working. The long-held dream of establishing a fly-fishing-only taimen sanctuary on this great river system may actually be in reach.
The Taimen of Outer Monglia are settling in for another winter under the ice. May we all be fortunate enough to meet again.
It’s unusual in the thick of the season to get a chance for a vacation with the family. But this summer, the stars aligned for a five-day adventure in the high Cascades. We decided to visit the Newberry Volcanic Monument east of La Pine. Specifically, the heart of the Newberry Caldera: East Lake.The fishery at East Lake is diverse and compelling: Rainbows, Browns, Kokanee, and landlocked Atlantic Salmon make up a veritable smorgasbord of species to target with a fly rod.I limited my arsenal of flies to dries and light nymphs and only fished when there were risers within casting range. This seemed appropriate when balanced against all the other fun activities to be enjoyed: mountain biking, waterfalls, swimming, hot springs, collecting volcanic debris.Towards the end of the trip, I was still amazed at how beautiful the place was. The white pumice beach and azure waters made it seem like a true Redneck Riviera.Back here in the Valley, summer fishing has been consistent. McKenzie trouting has been great. Steelheading has had its moments in between heat waves.Summertime, and the living is easy. . .
Fishing has been excellent here in the Valley over the last few weeks. Rainy weather has led to great trout action on the McKenzie, with wild Redside and hatchery “Breadside” trout rising readily to surface presentations.
Steelhead fishing has been spotty overall, but is improving as more chromers arrive each day. And these first arriving fish are the hottest fighters of the year.
We’re looking forward to more great fly fishing in the next few months. Here are some fresh images from the river. See you out there!