Best of 2018 #2: Birthday Steelhead

Every once is a while, the steelhead gods remind you that they really aren’t out to get you. Planets align, good karma rules, and all is right with the chrome world. This year’s birthday steelhead trip was such moment. Sure, one day of skunk, but bookended by a great day on the creeks and an even better one — my birthday — on the Salmon. Not a bad thing to wish for when you’re blowing out the candles.

Skunk’s off early on day one. Brilliant even in the pale light of a cloudy dawn.

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The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. Whoops! Then it rained, and the next day was a cold, wet blank. Not worry. Good times coming.

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Every dog has his day. I’d rather be lucky than good. Whatever the bromide, it’s some kind of wonderful when you’re the guy in the pool who’s making everyone else wonder what he did to deserve hooking steelhead after steelhead. One of my best days ever on the Salmon, and thanks again to everyone who lent a landing net hand and so kindly shared water.

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Best of 2018 #4: the high water payoff

I literally waited two years for that September day: a heavy rainfall spike in the Farmington flow, a drop to a certain height, water still off-color, and (hopefully) big browns on the hunt. The plan was simple: pound the banks with streamers. She rolled on the fly, a yellow Zoo Cougar, moments after it hit the water, and I knew right away she was something special. A worthy opponent, and my largest Farmington brown of 2018.

We should probably measure this one in pounds rather than inches.

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Best of 2018 #5: Steelheading with my boys

In a way, it’s ridiculous to try to assign a value to something as precious as time alone on the water with your sons. Suffice to say that I treasure the opportunity to go steelheading with them. We’ve got a nifty little system: Gordo gets the spring drop back shift, and Cam takes the late fall duties. Lucky dad! I get to do both. Memories are made, tales begin to be told, and it’s always an adventure.

This young man has become an excellent steelheader in just a few short years. (What a proud papa I’ve become!) As usual, Cam gets it done, whether rain, sleet, snow, or cold. Or all of the above.

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Gordo and I have fished the Salmon River in April on sunny days and our shirt sleeves. No such luck in 2018: 34 degrees, freezing rain, classic ice storm. At least the fish cooperated — or they did for Gordo. Fresh chrome in April! Woo-hoo!

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Best of 2018 #6: Block Island stripers

The Block is my salty retreat. My striper sanctuary. I’d go so far as to call it sacred water. The seasonal bass populations have been neap and spring in the past decade, but 2018 was a high water mark: good numbers of stripers, and some decent sized fish in the mix. In fact, a third of the Block Island stripers I landed this year were legal-plus, with a few to 15 pounds. Best of all, many of these fish weren’t easy to catch. On several nights I passed other anglers leaving the beach who greeted me with the lament of “lots of bass busting, but we couldn’t catch them.” This was surely a job for the floating line, dropper rig, and trout tactics.

And to my delight, it was.

My Block Island fishing is steeped in tradition. For example, I’ll use certain flies on certain dates, like the Olive Fireworm Big Eelie on July 4th. Doesn’t matter what year it is, it’s that the fly on that date. This 15-pounder tried to assert her independence, but I won the day.

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I fished Crescent Beach and was walking along Corn Neck Road as the bars were letting out. “Hey, flashlight hat man!” came drunk girl’s come-hither shout-out. I rather liked her choice of words. In the moonlight I could see bass crashing bait on the surface. Here’s a release in the wash.

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Is it me or does this bass look like she’s formulating a thought?

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Best of 2018 #7: Every small stream outing

I’m a count-your-blessings kind of guy, and to be able to fish for wild native char on a secluded woodland stream is certainly at the top of the tally sheet. There’s something both poetic and romantic about catching a fish whose direct ancestors lived in the same waters for tens of thousands of years.

Even in winter. A dark horse from February.

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200 years ago this was a farmer’s property line.

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Biggest small stream brookie of the year, taken on a micro bugger in deep plunge pool. An old fish who made it through flood, drought, and bitter cold, I didn’t even take him out of the net for a beauty shot.

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Best of 2018 #8: Guiding

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” goes the old saw. Nice try, but guiding is hard work. Still, it’s a labor of love, and I’m fortunate enough to be a teaching guide on a beautiful river. I get all kinds of clients, from beginner to intermediate to tourists and beyond, but they have one thing in common: they’ve chosen me to improve their fishing experience. I’ve once again been fortunate to have been hired by a long string of pleasant, kind people who were eager to learn and a pleasure to fish with. Thanks to everyone who made my job easier in 2018.

My April UpCountry wet flies class ran into a strong Hendrickson hatch. We like when that happens. 

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Guiding the next generation of fly anglers.

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Big Farmy browns to net always make a guide look good. I’ll take all the help I can get.

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One of my favorite guiding stories from 2018: I was shivering in my boots on a July evening, and I had to run back to the truck for my jacket. I told Mark I wanted to see his rod bent when I returned. As I came through the woods, this was the scene:

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