May 19, 2015

2015 Klickitat River Season Opens | Already!?

Photo Credit Steve Turner

It never fails, at the end of the Klickitat steelhead season when it closes on November 30th that I’m always bummed that it comes too quickly. 

 For years I had attended meetings to try and get the “authorities” to keep it open until the end of Feb or March and beginning December 1st make it artificial, and barbless lure only to remove any hatchery fish that could possibly try to spawn with the wild steelhead. I had several reasons for trying to keep it open, the first was selfish and that was to prolong my fishing season on my favorite river and the second was that It made no sense to me, to close a river where there are hatchery fish in the system, when biologist will straight up tell you that they don’t want hatchery fish spawning with the wild fish.

Through studies that I have done with biologist in the past we discovered five different genetic strains of wild steelhead in the Klickitat River. If you’re trying to protect the spawning wild fish by closing it, then the artificial, barbless lure/fly makes perfect sense. We could continue to fish and harvest any hatchery fish meanwhile protecting the wild fish, who typically take artificial lures and flies less deeply than bait. Everyone including the steelhead wins. Ok, small rant to open the article, my purpose? To spark a thought in your head on why we do things sometimes the way we do them. I know the reasons, and it can be complicated at times, but that’s a whole other article we’ll save for another time. With my little rant over, the good news is that the season opener is right around the corner. Already!

2015 | Low Water – Different Approach

Spring Chinook will grab a fly slowly swung like molasses.  
Slow down grasshopper.
This past winter we have, to say the least, had no winter. Depending on where you look for information you will see that we are anywhere between 11 to 20 percent of our needed snow pack. This basically means we are in a drought year. If you look at the river levels of the Klickitat right now, you will see that we are about half the level (cfs: cubic feet per second) that we should be typically during this time of year. This translates in to low water conditions and even though the Klickitat is a glacial fed river, which typically means colder water temperatures than non-glacial fed streams, we could see warmer than usual temperatures as well. There will be less water for the fish to hide in so we will have to adjust the way we approach and fish it. At this point the Klickitat is getting strong numbers of steelhead already, before the opening date of June 1st.

I have had seasons where steelhead fishing has been really good during the opening week. At the time of me writing this, the word on the street is that the Klickitat will be open throughout the river for Spring Chinook as of June 1st, with a two adult limit (typically it wouldn't open until August 1st unless the hatchery upstream has gotten its quota) …and…and, the daily bag limit for steelhead has been set for 3 hatchery fish per day (typically it’s a 2 fish limit). Time will tell as the season progresses, just be ready to adjust as needed.

Temps | Tactics

Temps: Steelhead and Chinook are cold blooded and they are susceptible to both cold and warm water temperatures. Ask any veteran steelheader or biologist and they will confirm that water temperature will dictate how active fish will be, and where they will most likely hold, this isn't a big secret but it’s worth reviewing. To keep this portion short there are three temperature ranges that I want to touch on.

  • Mid 60’s to over 70 degrees: This is when steelhead will be mostly inactive. They will become lethargic, kind of like you or I getting out of the hot tub. Your energy is drained and you’re tired. Anything over 68 to 75 degrees (depending on each river) can be lethal to steelhead and Chinook. There are numerous studies on the internet about water temps and the effects on steelhead and Chinook, if you want to go deeper into the details simply Google it and knock yourself out. If I were to fish a river with temps in this range, I would be on the river at the crack of dawn when water temps are at the coolest and I would stop fishing once the river temps reach the lower end of this gauge. I would concentrate on the faster choppier heads and tailout’s of runs, forgetting the slow water. Fish that are landed in rivers where the temps are over 70 degrees do not fare well and their survival rate decreases due to the stress involved in battle. I encourage you to not fish when temps reach over 70 degrees for the fishes sake.
  • Mid 40’s to Low 60’s: This is ideal temperatures for active fish. I really like it when the temps are 45 to 55 degrees. You will find fish all over the place at these temps. Active steelhead will chase flies in every column of the river in this temp range. Skating a dry, swinging a wet, or dredging the depths it’s all good. This is where you will want to fish the entire run head to tailout. I recommend going through the run first with your skated or subsurface wet fly, then going back through with an intermediate sink tip and if you feel up to it, a third time with a sink tip. This will cover that run completely. You could honestly say that you gave that run a legit covering. I have done this, especially when I have the chance to fish a prime run. I've hooked them just under the surface and then went through again and hooked them on a sink tip. If you are skating a fly on the Klickitat I would start out with a good sized one, the main reason is because Klickitat River like bigger skated flies than say the Deschutes, if you get a player to come up to the surface but you fail to hook him, immediately put on a smaller one, and if that doesn't do the trick, swing a subsurface wet fly through there, he’s a player so play with him. A couple falls ago I played cat and mouse with a steelhead for over 45 minutes, changing my fly 5 times before he’d had enough and didn’t want to play anymore. It was crazy fun and intense! I was engaged with the game and had a blast. One of my all-time favorite flies is the Purple Muddler Minnow on a floating line or a sink tip, doesn't matter, it puts steelhead on the beach. If skating in October I wouldn't overlook the October Caddis, we have monstrous October Caddis on the Klickitat, October Caddis as big as some butterflies, hence the bigger skater.
  • Low 30’s to Low 40’s: Here steelhead will begin again to become less active and the lower the temps get the more lethargic they become. Again they are kind of like you and I, when I’m cold, and the colder I become, the more my fingers don’t like to work and all I can think of is getting back into my comfort zone. To be successful at these colder temps you will definitely forget about fishing 75 percent of the places you normally could find a steelhead when temps are more ideal. This is the time to concentrate your efforts in the deeper slower pools. Steelhead will actually stack up in pools like cordwood to take advantage of the slow moving current and conserve energy. I have had ridiculous fishing (numbers) when I used to Centerpin and nymph fish when the temps were in this range and the fish were stacked up. This can be a difficult time to take a steelhead on the swing, not impossible but challenging. This is where slowing your swing way down to a crawl and letting it hang for an extended amount of time could pay off. I have landed steelhead on the swing with water temps at 31 degrees. I know that in some places steelhead have even been taken on skated flies in these temps but it’s usually in shallow clear water where they don’t have to move far to take the fly.
  • In short, when water temperatures are low, you’ll find the fish in the softer water along the edges of the river and in slower, deeper runs, pools and flats. They lie in these places to avoid fighting the current. On the other hand, the warmer the temps, the faster, choppier water you’re going to find them in, this is where oxygen will be sufficient and needed. The Klickitat has lots of long shallow choppy tailout’s from one to three feet deep which will be ideal places to swing or skate your fly in low, clear and warmer water temps.

Don’t go to the Klickitat in early season with wimpy hooks, 
these fish will destroy them and leave you with a souvenir!
Now, let’s talk about the Klickitat River while temps are fresh in our minds. Typically the Klickitat runs colder than most rivers around here due to the fact that it is a glacial fed river. Compared to the famous Deschutes River in Oregon which most of the time has ideal water temperatures for skating and swinging flies, the Klickitat is considerably different. The “D” temps are typically warmer and you have huge classic runs with major holding lies and active fish which is the very reason the river is world famous and precious to the steelhead junkie. The Klickitat although smaller in size has lots of classic runs and holding water, but it runs colder, so the fish react differently to the fly at times. This is not to say that it’s impossible to have awesome action on the swung fly but it can be more of a challenge to get them to take the fly, just ask anyone who has fished the Klickitat and the Deschutes in the summer and fall and they will agree with what I am saying. There is a reason that 90 percent of the guides guiding on the Klickitat River are nymph fishing most of the time. It’s because it’s easier to get a steelhead in a smaller, colder stream to bite while being spoon fed than it is for them to chase something down to attack.

When I fish the Deschutes in mid-summer and throughout the fall, I am very confident, dare I say, know that I am going to hook steelhead on the swung fly. It’s rare that I don’t. It’s happened, but not often. On the other hand, the Klickitat can test you. You might make multiple trips over there and spend hours before you get a grab. I've had years where 80 percent of the time I went over to fish before going to work in the Gorge Fly Shop I would hook one to three steelhead on the swing, then I've had times I might make 6 trips over without a grab. So, I say all that to say, that on a river like the Klickitat, you have to have a game plan. I probably sound like a broken record because I know that I have shared this information in past articles. By taking temperatures you can dissect and determine where and how to fish, it’s that simple. Each river is different in its own way and to truly become intimate with a river you have got to spend time on it and pay attention to what is going on around you.

Sam Sickles grasp what we call a legit Klickitat River TOAD!

2015 Opening Expectations

My thoughts, looking forward to the Klickitat opening is that in this low water/drought year we are already seeing abnormal water levels, although I have not been to the Klickitat to take a water temperature, I would bet that it would be slightly warmer at this point as well. If we continue to have no rain, in conjunction with little snow pack, without a doubt the river will continue to drop and with the heat of summer around the corner, we will see warmer temps than usual. With such a small amount of snow pack I believe that we will have for the most part low clearer water than we typically do. We just don’t have the snow pack to keep the river at its normal spring levels. Last year we had better conditions in the middle of summer and I know of temperatures as high as 65 degrees where measured.

On another note, with low, clearer water and warmer temps we will definitely see more of the slimy, snotty, string like moss (my scientific name for it because I don’t know the real name of it) that grows on the rocks. Anyone who fished last summer when that stuff was growing knows what I’m talking about. With the sun rays reaching down to the bed of the river it makes prime growing conditions. We could see some challenging conditions this season to say the least.

With this all in mind and with the current fish counts, although it is still pretty early, but we are at about three times the ten year average so far for fish over Bonneville Dam. What does this mean? Well with good numbers of summer steelhead a possibility and with conditions I've described, we could see some great action when the temps are in our favor. I am personally going to be a skating fool on the Klickitat this summer and you can bet that I will be aware of what is going on around me while I am on the water. I will be taking temperatures throughout the day to maximize my success but also to protect the fish. I will adjust my approach in the way that I fish. I have always wanted to become a better fisherman with a skated fly and I believe that this season, given the conditions, could be the year to become more proficient at it. Ideal conditions where the water is lower and the temperatures force them to lay in long fairly shallow tailouts, I could see some serious skating action. If my excitement becomes reality, you will definitely hear about it.

Examples of Skaters in various sizes to cover various conditions on the Klickitat River…Can’t Wait!

 I've tied up some skaters that are ready for battle. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, only time will tell what happens and the changes we’ll need to make, in the meantime go to the river with a game plan, I’ll see you out on the water…

John Garrett's Guide to Early Season Steelheading on the Klickitat
Klickitat River Late Season with John Garrett

Remember, if you can’t find it at the Gorge Fly Shop, you don’t need it!

Gorge Fly Shop
John Garrett | Product Specialist


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

May 18, 2015

3-weight Echo Glass Switch Rod

The 3-weight Echo Glass Switch rod arrived Monday in perfect condition. While I haven't yet had a chance to fish with it, I set it up and have experimented casting several different lines on the lawn. Since I plan to use it exclusively for single-hand and two-handed overhead casting, I didn't try any spey lines or scandi and Skagit heads. My other switch rods cast best with lines one or two AFTMA weights above the designated rod weight, and this one is no exception. It casts both weight forward and double taper 4-weight lines well, but for my style of casting and the rivers I will be fishing, I liked a double taper 5-weight best. The rod doesn't feel over loaded and produces long, tight-loop casts with little effort.

Although the overall rod weight doesn't seem much heavier than an equivalent graphite rod, the glass construction distributes the weight closer to the tip, and the rod balances best with a somewhat heavier reel than I might use on a graphite rod. The same is true of my Echo Glass 12'4" 6-weight spey rod, which balances best with a fairly heavy reel of around 13oz. That rod casts extremely well for me with a Rio 390 grain scandi head, a 10' AirFlo Slow Sink poly leader and 5 feet of tippet, and I have caught several good trout with it.

I am very satisfied with both my Echo Glass switch and spey rods and will use them frequently for trout here in Colorado. They are a great value for the price with excellent workmanship and cosmetics. The indexing marks on the sections and addition of a fly-keeper are two minor features missing on many more expensive rods that I particularly appreciate. The only suggestion I would make to Echo is that a down-locking rather than up-locking reel seat would help counteract the forward weight bias inherent in glass rods of this length, allowing them to balance better with lighter reels.

Thanks to you and the others at Gorge Fly Shop for the excellent service,


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Columbia Gorge Fishing Reports

Deschutes (May 16th)

May 17, 2015

Rainbow Trout on the Deschutes River are still biting and fighting.  The Salmonfly hatch has moved past Trout Creek and is approaching Warm Springs if it isn’t already there in full force.  Fishing was very good above Whitehorse Rapids this past week and should remain excellent for a while longer.  Fish are eating a variety of big bugs.  I fished a Chernobyl for three days and had little thought of changing.  Near the end, there were more refusals, but overall the action was consistent from start to finish.  Look for fish at the tail end of the hatch to like bugs that don’t ride as high on the water, like a Clark’s Stone or a Stimulator.  I saw no sign of the elusive Green Drake hatch, but the PMD hatch was excellent and there were definitely fish eating them along with the occasional stonefly. 

Stones Out

Remember that there is NO FISHING FROM A BOAT ON THE DESCHUTES and also, fishing on the Warm Springs Reservation is highly regulated, so check the regulations before you start fishing on the wrong side… Some sections require a permit and others are prohibited all together. 

Deschutes - Echo Glass

Spring Chinook are still coming though in decent numbers.  It looks like we are having a great run.  The action is good on bait and plugs at Drano Lake and the Wind River, where boat anglers are still producing good catch rates and nice bright fish.  The Klickitat has been good below Lyle Falls and should remain consistent this week.  

Just a reminder… the Klickitat River is only open below Lyle Falls (mile 1.4) and is only open there on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays....  The river above LYLE FALLS is currently closed, and opens for summer steelhead on JUNE 1.  Drano Lake is also closed on Wednesdays…

The Clackamas, Sandy and the Kalama all tend to get a few early summer steelhead, usually starting in May.  There is generally very little pressure this time of year for summer steelhead on those rivers.  Traditionally, our summer fish don’t start showing up in the Gorge until quite a bit later in the season.  There are usually a few (very few) caught early in June on the Klickitat after it opens, but then it is typically pretty tough until mid to late August when temps start to fall and the water clarity cleans up.  (The Klickitat and Hood both run very muddy during the summer).

Smallmouth Bass are still biting on the Columbia River and fishing should be really good if the wind is ever calm enough to get a cast or two in.  There are some big fish around in shallow water and they are a blast to catch on a fly rod.  The “smallies” are chowing down on a variety of flies, such as clousers, crayfish and big woolly buggers.  A floating or intermediate sinking line will work just fine with an 8-10# leader and a six or seven weight fly rod.  A boat is nice, and a float tube works great in a lot of places if the wind is down, but there are plenty of places that one can fish from shore. 

The John Day River has also been fishing really well for Smallmouth Bass.  It is a lot easier to access and the fish are very easy to catch.  They love topwater poppers, ants, grasshoppers and dragonflies.  There are plenty of fish, but the big 3#+ fish are less common than in the Columbia this time of year.  It is a great place to take someone new to fishing, or if you have had a rough winter of steelheading and need to get that rod bent with little effort. 

Not much has changed on our lakes, so the report is the same…  Many of our local lakes are still fishing well right now for Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout.  Pick a lake and it is likely fishing well.  Timothy and Trillium Lakes near Government Camp, OR are both producing some very nice trout as well as Rock Creek Reservoir near Wamic, OR.  Lost Lake is always a good spot to catch some fish, but not much in the way of solitude. The same goes for Kingsley Reservoir near Hood River.  It’s a good fishery, but it is crowded with all walks of life from four wheelers and motorbikers to drunken twenty-somethings on vinyl alligator pool floats. 


Goose Lake near Trout Lake, WA has been excellent for numbers of smaller trout.  Rowland, Spearfish and Horsethief Lakes are fishing very well for stocked rainbows, as well as Maryhill Pond on the Washington side of Biggs Junction. 

As always, we are happy to talk fishing any time.  Give us a call if you have any specific questions on local rivers, gear, and tactics, or if you just want some encouragement to get out of the office. 

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

May 15, 2015

Friends Trout and Teriyaki

When I was in elementary school, my absolute favorite event of the year was our annual fishing trip to eastern Washington for opening weekend of trout fishing. Forget the water park, Mariners games or the zoo; the boys’ annual fishing trip was the thing I looked forward to the most. Drowning worms, debating which color of powerbait was better, and bringing home a cooler full of trout was all part of the experience. I even wrote an essay in sixth grade about my favorite place; Lake Jameson.

Fins and Friends
Things have changed for me since then. I rarely drown worms, I have decided that the blue and pink sparkle powerbait is by far the most effective color, and I mostly bring home empty coolers that started out the weekend full of beer.

Emerald green waters
I have made a spring trout trip to the “basin lakes” of Eastern Washington trip almost every year except for a few times when living in Idaho. Getting out of Eastern Idaho in April was a bit more difficult than it sounds on this 80 degree day.

I made it happen every year in college when there were many other things that I should have been focusing on; mostly studying… but I always managed to get a friend or two to go camping for a few days while we celebrated the rites of spring at a beautiful lake.

This year I convinced Jon and Ryan to join me at _________ Lake for two days. Jon and Ryan had never met, but I know two peas in a pod when I see them. Both are recent transplants from what I call back East, but both have convinced that Austin, Texas and Chicago are not actually “back East”. But to me, anything east of Wyoming might as well be New York.

Unable to get out of the Gorge after work, we met up at o’ dark thirty in my driveway, the beginning of many epic trips. Three and a half hours after departing Hood River, we arrived at a chain of lakes that I had been curious about for some years now, but had only camped at many years ago with some friends when it wasn’t open for fishing. While I didn’t fish these lakes back then, they were put on my radar and I have been reading up on them and hatching a plan for several years now.

Camping in the Desert
This year however, fishing was the primary objective of the trip. We struggled to find a nice camping site, but eventually found a nice quiet little spot on the opposite side of the lake from the hordes of RVs. I had forgotten that arriving at a busy lake on a Friday morning can make for a tough time finding a good spot, since I am normally not a “weekend warrior” and rarely find myself camping in such a well-used area.

Packing Float Tubes
The lake that I really wanted to explore involved a very short drive, then a “nice” hike. It was maybe a little under a mile over broken basalt, a crooked path and a several hundred foot drop in elevation. Not the easiest thing to accomplish while carrying an Outcast Fat Cat, two rods, and all of our gear and food for the day. After what seemed like too long since we left town, our arrival at the lake could not have been better. There were several nice trout working just under the surface about ten feet from shore where we had just arrived.

One poor cast, made too quickly with a terrible presentation and the fish were gone. We took a minute, sat down and rested in quiet solitude, gaining a bit of focus and calm that would guide us through the rest of the day.

Once launched, it took a few minutes to get the first fish or two to our nets. Jon landed three before I was even settled in. I then missed the first four I hooked, but fish were coming to hand with ease within an hour. The rainbows in this lake were not huge, but they put up a huge fight. We believe this is due to being released as fingerlings; they are forced to fend for themselves and grow strong from an early stage. Fourteen to seventeen inch trout are still dandies in most places on earth.

We soon found this little point in the lake where fish, wind, currents and food all met. Soon after that, we stopped being impressed with double hook-ups and only made a passing notice when all three of us had bent rods at the same time. Laughter echoed across the otherwise empty lake as grown men giggled like school boys every time a rainbow trout went airborne.

Leeches and Buggers
I caught most of my fish on a chironomid nymph, but we all caught fish on just about everything that we could throw at them. Leech patterns, callibaetis nymphs, damselfly nymphs, soft hackles, and dries were all working just fine. Jon mostly fished an olive or black bugger, while Ryan threw a squirrel fur sculpin pattern he calls the Mohawk.

On the way out, Ryan and I hiked into a couple of other lakes as it was getting dark, but didn’t see any signs of life. The approach to the first lake included a treacherous descent of a basalt cliff, and nearly falling to great injury several times. I wish that there had been enough light to get a picture or two of this backwoods journey. The jagged basalt faces, endless thorny brushes and loose rock made our trek more of an adventure than we were expecting. Unfortunately, there were no fish in these small lakes. After such an amazing day, the lack of trout in those last couple of lakes didn’t affect our day at all and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to see these little gems.

Trout bugs

While Ryan and I explored these little side lakes, Jon made it back to camp and was prepping steaks and potatoes for us to be just in time for a gorgeous sunset at our campsite. After a filling meal and a couple of frosty beverages, we turned in to bed quickly. We all slept like bears in hibernation until morning.
Day two proved to be a little bit harder than the first. Jon was too sore to hike back into that lake. His knee was bothering him, so he fished a couple of the lakes that were close to camp and required no hiking. He reported that there were indeed trout in those lakes and indeed, they did eat flies with gusto.

While Jon explored the “camp water”, Ryan and I hiked back into the lake that we hit the day before. While the first day offered a fish every couple of minutes, there were a couple of near hour long stretches on day two that fishing was really tough; alternated with hours of slaughter. While we were exploring a different part of the lake, we got sucked into sight casting for pre-spawning fish in the shallows that were not at all interested in our flies. Once we got back on track working the productive shoreline, it was “game on” again. While we still hooked and landed tons of fish, the best part of the day was spent on unproductive water.
Worth the Hike

The hike into the lake was strenuous the first time. The way out was fueled purely by adrenaline from a day of slaughter. The hike in on the second day was definitely tough. Every muscle in my legs and back burned with every step. Through pure grit and determination, we fished hard until 5:00 and then we had the hardest hike out of a lake I have ever experienced. Every time I looked up from the trail, the rim of the canyon (our destination) appeared to be further away than when we started. We made it out running on fumes only to have to pack up camp and drive four hours or so back to Hood River.

Tiger Trout
A quick stop for Teriyaki in Ellensburg mildly fueled us up for the final couple of hours of driving. Upon arrival at my house just shy of midnight, we haphazardly dumped all of our gear in my driveway and went our separate ways, agreeing to deal with our camping gear in the morning. I am guessing that I was asleep within 21 seconds of Ryan and Jon getting back in the car.

It’s so nice to take a break from steelheading every year and get back to my roots. I don’t spend nearly enough time on a lake, but I enjoy every minute of it regardless of the size or quantity of the fish. No matter where I am, I will always plan to take a weekend in April or May to get out to a desert lake, camp with my friends, and catch a trout or two.

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist

Float Tube Buyers Guide

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

May 13, 2015

Trout Spey Reels

Trout Spey Reels

Does one need a special reel for a trout spey rod? Absolutely! We must always be in pursuit of the perfect match of rod, REEL and line!

So what makes a perfect reel for a two hand trout spey rod outfit? While line capacity, drag performance and weight account for most of the answer ultimately we still get to make our own decision based on pure personal preference. It's hard not to like all fly reels. Machined aluminum, anodized colors and precision movement, what's not to like! If you're tired of standard issue offerings you can always spring for one of the many custom options including colors and engravings offered by many fly reel manufactures including Abel, Nautilus, Tibor and Bauer.

Just like in my previous line article (Trout Spey Lines - No Perfect Answer!), I'm not going to go into every little detail about fly reels but instead review the reels I have used, what I like and don't like about them.

Bauer CFX4 Spey

While CFX #5 and #6 spey reels are not new the Bauer CFX #4 size is new. Brand New! I bought the first two to ever ship from the Bauer factory. Summer 2014 over lunch with Jon Bauer on my travels through southern Oregon an idea came to me that I instantly shared with Jon. I told Jon that current spey and switch specific reels are too large for my trout spey rod needs and most of today's single hand fly reels are too light to properly balance my two hand rods. Not to mention they just don't have a soulful look. Now I'm not a retro reel enthusiast but I do love the look of a solid back reel and the extra metal adds the weight needed to balance a two hand rod. Jon Bauer understood my needs and agreed to do a run of CFX #4 with solid backs like the #5 and #6 CFX spey reels. He has some inventory of them and because the spool is the same as the standard CFX all color options are available including the inner drum and drag knob colors. At this time of writing we are currently the only Bauer dealer with this CFX #4 spey option on our website.

Bauer reels are smooth operators with undetectable start up inertia.
It's one of the few reels that still uses hardwood handles, something that I like and find lacking on most modern reels. On the CFX model you will find the drag knob located on the crank side of the reel. This is an age old argument as popular as which hand should you retrieve with. I like the drag on the crank side, why would I want to reach around the reel to adjust drag and have to think about which way to turn the knob to adjust. Having the drag knob on the crank side makes it easy to adjust when needed and the design of the knob lets you reach in with two fingers to make an adjustment so as to avoid getting your knuckles whacked by the crank.

Specs - Bauer CFX #4
  • Diameter 3.75"
  • Weight 6.6 oz (scaled 6.6 oz) 
  • Capacity 330gr Airflo Switch Streamer + 100yds/20# backing
  • RIO Scandi Short VersiTip 320gr #5 + Rio Powerflex 0.024 running line + 100yds/20# (lots of room to spare)

The CFX #4 should handle any 3 and 4 weight spey/switch rods and lines and maybe have enough capacity for some 5 weight rods depending on your line choices.

Note about spey reel specs
There are so many variables in two hand reel specs that you really should take in consideration when choosing a reel size. How much backing do you want/need? What length and diameter of running line do you intend to use? What line or head system will you choose; (I.E. Skagit, Scandi, integrated or other)? I start out with 100yds of 20# backing. I consider that to be more than enough for the trout angler. Running/shooting lines are a pretty big variable. Are you going to use mono or a standard level line? How long do you need? 100' running lines are pretty much overkill and you could easily gain some reel capacity by trimming off the backing end to 70' or 80' and still have more than enough. Skagit heads need more space than Scandi heads...So you can see the many variables with reels. I generally find reels in the 6/7/8 weight category to be sufficient for 3/4/5 weight trout speys.

Tibor Light Back Country CL Wide

Not a "new to the scene" reel the Tibor Light Series of reels have been around for quite awhile. Modern in design but yet I feel they possess a look missing in so many of today's new reels.
I originally purchased my Back Country reel for my Sage Bass Series Smallmouth Rod but I had to try it out on my Winston 4110 Microspey. It is a perfect marriage! Balance, capacity and the soulful look is hard to beat. I'd like to get another in a different color and return the bass red to the rightful place on the Sage Bass II rod but until I need it for that purpose it's found a home on my Winston.
The drag is silky smooth and has done an excellent job of protecting lite tippet. I like the adjuster on it too. Do note that I retrieve right hand and that puts the adjuster on the forward end of the reel. This would be reversed to the rearward end for left hand retrievers. I've had various different 3 and 4 weight spey lines on it with no capacity issues. I have also run a mono shooting line on it and never once did it slip out of the frame.

Specs - Tibor Back Country CL
  • Diameter 3 5/8"
  • Weight 5.5 oz (scaled 6.5 oz) 
  • Capacity Rio #5-320gr Scandi Short VersiTip + Rio Powerflex 0.024 running line + 100yds/20#.

Sage Domain

Sage Domain - Full Caged Frame
I paired a Sage Domain reel to my Sage ONE 4116 with the idea that it would be lined with a mono running line and a scandi head. The full cage frame would keep the mono tamed and the weight would be a good balance. I did a risky gamble going with the 5/6 size but it worked out perfect! The stealth black look goes great with the Sage One. The drag has functioned flawlessly just like I have come to expect from all my Sage reels. If I had any complaints it would be that the spool is hard to remove but that's not really an issue considering I don't intend on having extra spools for it. The Domain is a nice mix of modern features such as large arbor and precision drag while including important two hand functionality such as full caged frame and enough weight for rod balancing. Capacity seems generous to the point that I was able to make the Size  #5 work for me with a mono running line and a scandi head but you would want to get the #8 if level running line and/or skagit head is in your plans.

Specs - Domain #5
  • Diameter 3.60"
  • Weight 6.2 oz (scaled 6.0 oz) 
  • Capacity Rio #5-320gr Scandi Short VersiTip + S/A 0.021" Mono Shooting line + 100yds/20# backing

Lamson Litespeed #3

If you're seeking lightweight it's hard to beat a Lamson Litespeed. While lighter than I prefer I have used a #3 Litespeed to do a lot of different line testings and it just works and looks great. Reliable effective smooth drag and large arbor for fast retrieves has given the Litespeed an incredible reputation as a highly effective fishing tool. I really have no complaints about any of the Lamson reels I own. Lamson actually has many great choices for the two hand enthusiast including the Speedster HD, ARX and Guru HD which are all full frame caged reels.

Specs - Litespeed #3
  • Diameter 3.75"
  • Weight 4.63 oz (scale 4.5 oz) 
  • Capacity - Rio #5 Scandi Short VersiTip + Rio ConnectCore 0.026 running line + 100 yds/20# backing
Lamson Speedster HD

Lamson Speedster HD #3

Modern, great looking, reliable and high performance are the words I will use to describe the Speedster HD Series of reels. Sure I love the soulful look of solid backs and hardwood handles of the more traditional style reels but you've got to respect the modern advancement of technology that comes with the Lamson Speedster. It's like comparing a 60's muscle car with a modern day Corvette. Both deserve our respect and what you choose is your choice and no choice is wrong! You certainly can't go wrong with the Speedster. I only wish they made it in black, (Hello Lamson: Hint! Hint!). While on the lite side of two hand reels I found my Speedster HD #3 to be in the ballpark of balance with the Winston 4110 Microspey.

Specs - Speedster #3 HD
  • Diameter 4.0" 
  • Weight 5.3 oz (scale 5.4) 
  • Capacity - Rio 325gr Skagit Max Short + S/A Textured Shooting line 0.032" + 100yds/20# backing...NOTE: This combo really packed the speedster but most of the line overkill comes from the S/A 120' of shooting line. You could chop that back to 90' and still have more than enough running line and get back lost capacity

Full Cage vs. No Cage

Caged (Lamson Speedster HD) vs. No Cage (Lamson Speedster)
Why use a full cage reel? The best reason to utilize a full cage is to help tame mono running lines. Mono running lines can be a love / hate relationship, you either learn to love what they can do for you or you end up hating how they can treat you. The advantages you get with mono such as longer casts have to be weighed out with the disadvantages such as tangling and coiling. One way to help tame mono is incorporating the use of a full caged reel. The cage part of the frame acts like a line guide and therefore removes some of the freedom a mono line has to coil around things or sneak out between frame and spool. In some cases a full cage reel can have an added benefit being that they usually weigh more than cage free designs thereby helping balance your two hand rod. So even if you never intend to use a mono running line you still might find a caged reel to be a weight benefit. An "easy to see the difference" example of this is the Lamson Speedster which is made in both caged and cage free models. The Lamson Speedster #3 (cage free) weighs in at 4.7 oz while the Lamson Speedster HD (caged) weights in at 5.3 oz. Although 0.6 oz is not a huge difference it is a noticeable difference in where your rod will balance.

To further this conversation about rod balance I'd like to point out a couple details of interest. First is,  I find reels that are too heavy to be more annoying than reels that are too light. When a reel is too heavy you are constantly forcing the tip of the rod down. Personally I find it easier to fish a rod that I have to pull the tip up. Second item is you can always add weight to a reel but you can't remove weight. Weight can be added to a reel simply by adding some tungsten sink tip or lead core line to the arbor of your spool. 200 grains of sink tip material is almost 0.50 oz. Keep in mind to feel the actual balance of a rod you will need to have a loaded reel attached with the line strung through the guides and the head part of the line outside the tip top just as if you are fishing to get an accurate idea of how the rod will balance on the stream. Balancing a rod is not an exact science. Too many variables exist that change the balance points such as where do you grip the handle or how much running line is out the tip as well as what type of line are you fishing with. You really are just trying to get in the ballpark with reel weight and as long as you're in it you will have a comfortable effective fishing tool. When an outfit balances well you won't even notice it but offset the balance and it will become quite clear on the stream. I have tried a couple popular 8 weight large arbor salt type reels on my trout spey rods and while the capacity is great the balance was way off particularly to the annoying side of heavy whereas reels that are on the "too light" side of balance seem to lean on the side of acceptable.

My guess is if you are getting into trout spey you are probably already a seasoned angler. You probably already have some reels in your collection that might work great or they might help you to determine what weight or capacity you need for your rod. Send me your pictures and tell me what you like. I really enjoy hearing about your experiences. Thanks for reading.

Lines I use on these reels - Trout Spey Lines - No Perfect Answer!

My two hand trout adventures - Trout Spey Chronicles


Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

May 12, 2015

Columbia Gorge Fishing Reports

Fly Fishing Reports
Photo Credit Andrew Perrault

Gorge Fly Shop Fishing Report Archive 

May 11, 2015

Fishing continues to be consistent around the area for a variety of species and situations. May is a great time to be out on the water.

Rainbow Trout on the Deschutes River are the primary focus for our area fly anglers right now. This is very typical during the second half of May. The Salmonfly hatch has moved upstream of Maupin now and fish have turned on to the dry flies throughout a large portion of the river. Drowning a rubber-leg nymph under an indicator will produce nice fish early in the morning, but the dry fly action should be good this week through most of the river during the day, with both Golden Stone and Salmonfly patterns. A small caddis pattern should also catch some nice fish in the evenings if they turn off of the stoneflies.

Remember that there is NO FISHING FROM A BOAT ON THE DESCHUTES and also, fishing on the Warm Springs Reservation is highly regulated, so check the regulations before you start fishing on the wrong side… Some sections require a permit and others are prohibited all together.

Spring Chinook are still showing in decent numbers. It is getting to be the mid-point in the run and we are looking at a great year so far. A few guys have picked them up on fly rods, but the best action has been on bait or plugs at Drano Lake and the Wind River, where boat anglers are producing good catch rates and nice bright fish. There are few fish still in the Lower Klickitat and Hood River, (the trap at Lyle Falls on the Klickitat only had one fish per day for several days last week), but both of those rivers historically fish better starting after Mother’s Day. Targeting Chinook on a fly rod is still a frustrating game, but I never underestimate a stubborn man with a good fly rod.

Just a reminder… the Klickitat River is only open below Lyle Falls (mile 1.4) and is only open there on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays.... The river above LYLE FALLS is currently closed, and opens for summer steelhead on JUNE 1. Drano Lake is also closed on Wednesdays…

Winter Steelhead fishing has been done for a few weeks now, but historically, there are usually a few early Summer Steelhead in the area this time of year. The Clackamas, Sandy and the Kalama all tend to get an early summer steelhead run, usually starting in May. There is generally very little pressure this time of year for summer steelhead on those rivers. Traditionally, our summer fish don’t start showing up in the Gorge until quite a bit later in the season. There are usually a few (very few) caught early in June on the Klickitat after it opens, but then it is typically pretty tough until mid to late August when temps start to fall and the water clarity cleans up. (The Klickitat and Hood both run very muddy during the summer).

Smallmouth Bass are a really good option right now in the Columbia River, with bigger fish working the shallows aggressively. The level of the Columbia has gone up and down over three feet this past week, which dramatically reduced the productivity of bass fishing last week; but it was just temporarily. Things should level out a bit as the two local dams should be wrapping up their annual high-water push to get the salmon smolt downstream and fishing should return to its near epic levels. The fluctuations of river level move the fish around a lot and make it harder to keep their whereabouts in check. The bass would prefer a steady flow, and we should see more of that coming up soon.

The “smallies” are chowing down on a variety of flies, such as clousers, crayfish and big woolly buggers. A floating or intermediate sinking line will work just fine with an 8-10# leader and a six or seven weight fly rod. A boat is nice, and a float tube works great in a lot of places if the wind is down, but there are plenty of places that one can fish from shore.

The John Day River has also been fishing really well for smallmouth bass. It is a lot easier to access and the fish are very easy to catch. They love topwater poppers, ants, grasshoppers and dragonflies. There are plenty of fish, but the big 3#+ fish are less common than in the Columbia this time of year. It is a great place to take someone new to fishing, or if you have had a rough winter of steelheading and need to get that rod bent with little effort.

Many of our local lakes are fishing well right now for Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout. Pick a lake and it is likely fishing well. Timothy and Trillium Lakes near Government Camp, OR are both producing some very nice trout as well as Rock Creek Reservoir near Wamic, OR. Lost Lake is always a good spot to catch some fish, but not much in the way of solitude. The same goes for Kingsley Reservoir near Hood River. It’s a good fishery, but it is crowded with all walks of life from four wheelers and motorbikers to drunken twenty-somethings on vinyl alligator pool floats.

Goose Lake near Trout Lake, WA has been excellent for numbers of smaller trout. Rowland, Spearfish and Horsethief Lakes are fishing very well for stocked rainbows, as well as Maryhill Pond on the Washington side of Biggs Junction.

As always, we are happy to talk fishing any time. Give us a call if you have any specific questions on local rivers, gear, and tactics, or if you just want some encouragement to get out of the office.

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

May 7, 2015

Kimsquit Bay Lodge on the Dean River, BC

It takes teamwork to land these fish - Adam Tavender

I first was lucky enough to make it to the Dean River on the central coast of British Columbia for my first trip in '09. The Dean is the most revered river in the world among steelhead and salmon fly fisherman. If you are reading this, you likely already know that. So for me as a broke fishing guide, the opportunity to see this magical place and wade in the Dean's sacred green waters for a week was a feeling that is impossible to describe. To say that I was riding a high on the float plane ride-in would be a gross understatement. As soon as I touched down on the bay and saw the place, I knew this would have to be an annual trip for me that I wouldn't want to ever skip.

Grantham falls is adjacent to the lodge while the Hickman's tug 
Wy'East is moored in the bay out front
What makes the lower Dean River so special is tough to understand until you've been there. The place has a powerful energy. A large fjord called the Dean Channel delivers saltwater far inland to the heart of the impressive and dramatic BC Coast Range mountains. This places the mouth of the river directly in the middle of the large glaciated mountains. Views from the river include 8500ft peaks rising nearly vertical from sea level. Water falls cascading over a thousand feet, glaciers and untouched wilderness. While soaking up the views, your nose is filled with that refreshing coastal ocean air. I've even had a pod of Orcas swim past me just off of the rivers mouth while standing alone knee deep in the rivers lowest run called Sub Tidal.

Fishing was tough by Dean standards that first week, but I had a blast and caught some of the nicest steelhead I had ever seen including battling the largest steelhead of my life for 30 minutes before defeat.

Anytime you can encounter a steelhead or Chinook is a special thing and these steelhead and Chinook are about as special as they come. These deeply wild fish have been locally adapted to navigate the fierce Dean canyon. Called the falls by many, it is essentially a half mile long Class 5+ rapid less than two miles from the slat water. Weak and smaller fish are unable to ascend the canyon. The fish in the lower river are supercharged to power through the canyon. They have robust shoulders, oversized paddle tails, mirrored sides and totally translucent fins. From June- September there are no fish more fresh from the salt or higher quality anywhere.

Kathryn battles Chrome!
My love for this place, along with the willing nature and trust of my wife Kathryn, led us to take out a big loan last year in the Spring of 2014 and make the biggest leap of faith of my life. We bought the small fly fishing lodge situated above the saltwater near the mouth of the Dean River. We bought the lodge from the Blackwell family and have since renamed the lodge Kimsquit Bay Lodge. We continue to put our personal touch on the operation and build upon the high standards of comfort and customer service that the Blackwell family created and maintained for 20 years.

Remote Seclusion! 
For Kathryn and I, the lodge was a way to join forces and work and live together year-round. Before the lodge Kathryn worked a full time job in Hood River and I bounced back and forth seasonally guiding long days on different rivers spread out across Oregon. We had two houses and only saw each other on the weekends during the Winter and Spring seasons. and hardly at all during the busy Fall Deschutes camp season. Now we can earn a living together. We spend our Summers running the lodge on the Dean and the rest of the year guiding steelhead in Oregon on the Deschutes, Clackamas and north coast rivers. We haven't looked back since and this has been an amazing adventure and learning experience for us. We still feel incredibly lucky to live the lives we live and experience the things that the lodge and guiding lifestyle provides. We hope you can come visit us at Kimsquit Bay Lodge and experience it with us!

-Jeff Hickman
Photos by Jeremy Koreski

Openings and rates for my Kimsquit Bay Lodge the 2015 season.

All weeks are $6150 (except July 3-10 is $6650) 7 nights 6 guided days, last day unguided, all meals and wine with dinner. 6 rods, 2 guides
  • June 19th - 26th 
  • June 26th - July 3rd
  • July 3rd - 10th - $6650 - 2 spots remain
  • August 7th - 14th - 2 spots remain
  • August 14th - 21st - 6 spots open 
Jerry Swanson
Fish Head Expeditions, LLC


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

May 6, 2015

Aleutian Adventures - Sandy and Hoodoo River, AK

Summer 2015 open dates

Sandy River Steelhead - Photo Courtesy of Trevor Covich

Aleutian Adventures – Sandy River Lodge

A small intimate lodge with legendary fishing. The fish are direct from the Bering Sea. The remaining space is for steelhead, with the King season sold out. The price is
$7600 and includes the charter from Anchorage.
  • Oct. 4-11, 1 space, 
  • Oct. 11-18, 1 space

Aleutian Adventures – Hoodoo River

Hoodoo River King

The is a 6 person very comfortable riverside camp, located right in the fishing. These fish are also direct from the Bering Sea. The price is $5100 and includes the charter from Anchorage.
  • Kings June 21-28, 1 space
  • Silvers August 15-22, 22-29 and Aug. 29-Sept. 5 - (each week has one space) 

Aleutian Peninsula, Alaska

Hoodoo River Silver
In September 2013 I was fortunate to fish with Aleutian Adventures on the Hoodoo River and a couple of coastal creeks. We fished for silver salmon aka Coho, using a variety of gear and techniques. The Hoodoo is a decent sized river that has easy wading with sandy or gravel bottom. The coastal creeks were smaller in scale and dumped directly into the Bering Sea. We fished where you could see and hear the ocean as well as explored upstream. The tidewater fishing on the lower reaches was very special. I fished a floating line with a 12’ leader, while others fished with a sink tip. The floater had the advantage of the fly not stalling out in soft water.

If you have fished for Coho, you know that the bite goes on and off. Sometimes changing your fly pattern, depth or speed will elicit more action. When the bite was on fishing the swing with a slow or sometimes fast retrieve were very effective. Fishing the shallow water that was 3’ or less we would have bow wakes coming at the fly, followed by a big grab. No nibbling!

The rods I used were Sage Switchers in 6 and 7 weight with Skagit short lines and sink tips ranging from T-14 to MOW medium 7 ½ foot sinking. Also used were Sage 10’ 8 wt with floating line and 9’ 7wt with floating line.

Jerry Swanson: Fish Head Expeditions
The season is mid June into July for Kings. The Coho fishing begins in August and goes into October.
The Steelhead fishing starts in mid September and goes into mid October or when the weather closes it out. They take 6 anglers per week. This is not a steelhead destination, but more of a bonus. Quite the bonus though.

Please email or call for more information. The program is evolving for next season with a charter flight from Anchorage in the works and some additions to the fishing program.

Jerry Swanson
Fish Head Expeditions, LLC


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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