Squatter’s Rights

I went down to my nearby beach the other day. A falling seven-foot tide meant strong ebb current, which meant – hopefully – I’d find searun cutthroat trout. This beach fishes best on an ebb current.

Putting on my waders I noticed my favorite spot near the point that was below the outfall was already occupied. Not a big deal I thought as everyone knows it’s a proven spot.

I grabbed my Sage SALT and walked further north and accessed the beach below the bridge. Casting in a fan pattern and then taking a few steps after each fan I worked my way down the beach toward my spot and the other angler.

He noticed me as I started fishing. A bit later he left the beach and I thought I’d get to my spot in about 15 more minutes. But it wasn’t even ten minutes later that he quickly returned to the beach in exactly the same spot he’d been, and which would have been my destination.

I was a bit annoyed as he went back to fishing. I know I didn’t have any rights to the spot and he was there first. He had seen moving down the beach and it was evident I was moving in his direction. But it was apparent he wasn’t going anywhere and was unwilling to share that part of the beach with me or the other fly fishers that had come down to the beach.

As I got closer, I decided a confrontation that might arise wasn’t worth spoiling a nice sunny morning; I left the water and made my way along the back end of the beach to the other side of him. He sort of looked at me as I did. I nodded and he just stared.

A bit later, I met a fly fisher coming back up the beach who commented on the squatter. He had wanted to move to the point too, but seeing the squatter moved off to the south. It worked out for him as he said he had caught a nice 16 inch resident Coho.

He questioned whether the other guy had caught anything – I said to that point I’d seen him catch only one fish. He just shook his head and we parted company.

Never having been where the Coho had been caught, I decided to check it out. I had missed the main part of the ebb and caught nothing. But it was worth the effort to see a new part of the beach – a place I had seen other fly fishers in the past. Next time, I’ll be heading there.

As for the squatter, in the nearly three hours I was there, I only saw him catch the one fish.

Who says there’s no karma in fly fishing?

Sage SALT Five-Weight Review

Sage SALT

Most anglers looking for a fly rod for Puget Sound saltwater fishing typically start with a six-weight. The thinking is that it’s a good all-purpose line weight to handle most of the year’s fishing: from Sea Run Cutthroat Trout to Pink Salmon (in odd number years) and smaller Silvers (Coho). Chum salmon, however, require an eight-weight or better fly rod.

I started with a six-weight Winston BIII-SX. Beautiful as all Winston rods are, but it was stiff and heavy. Even worse was its big brother in eight-weight. Both soon found their way to eBay. After trying many rods (and I mean many – sometimes going back to an earlier candidate), I wound up with a great six-weight: the Scott Radian. It meets all the requirements for a good all-purpose rod for Washington. In addition to Puget Sound saltwater, I think it’d be a great rod to take over to the Yakima.

But it’s still a six-weight and I had been thinking I wanted a five-weight for Puget Sound. The truth is that most of the year’s fishing is for Sea Run Cutthroat Trout. Salmon season is four or five months long at best. And last year was a bust as no one had much luck with all the Coho that should have been coming in.

So I wanted the lighter-weight fly rod that would provide a bit more fishing fun with the smaller fish, but still land them quickly to make sure they weren’t exhausted when released. Lucky for me at about this time Sage had released its new SALT fly rod in line weights 5 to 16. it was the replacement for the well-regarded Xi3.

Gig Harbor Fly Shop’s writeup of the rod (here) convinced me, so after test casting the rod in nearby Skansie Brothers Park, I brought one home.

It is a sweet rod, from the beautiful dark sapphire color of the blank to the always excellent cork Sage uses, to the anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat and rubber fighting butt. One thing I thought was very useful, particularly if one gets the SALT in a number of weights, was the laser-etched rod weight on slide band.

The rod itself weighs 3 11/16 ounces. What’s interesting is that i think it feels and casts like a much lighter weight rod.

The tip response is fast but loading the rod further down the blank seems to be a more moderate action. Sage has said the tip provides the quick shots required in tropical saltwater fishing while the rest of the blank provides the action to go after longer range targets. Who am I to disagree? All I know is that it’s a fun rod to cast.

I did start casting it with a Rio Outbound Short, but found the casts and loops were too ragged for me. I switched to a full length Rio Outbound and everything settled out.

One thing to note is that Rio no longer offers the full length Outbound Floating / Intermediate in five-weight (the Outbound full floating is still sold in five weight). I went looking on eBay and was able to get a couple of the lines. Hopefully Rio will introduce a new line soon to replace the WF5F/I.

This feels like a rod that will be a good companion for many years to come. And while it may not work for dry flies, it can probably toss a streamer on the Yakima or in Montana (as Blake mentioned in his writeup).

Red’s Rendezvous VI

Simon with Method Switch Rod

Last Saturday, I attended Red’s Fly Shop Rendezvous VI. The Rendezvous is an annual event sponsored by Red’s at its fly shop and the Canyon River Ranch on the Yakima River. I’ve attended all but one of these events and every year it seems to get bigger and better.

The day was filled with riverside seminars, classroom presentations, beginner casting instruction, casting competition, vendor booths, and great food.

The highlight for me was attending seminars taught by Simon Gawesworth (RIO Spey line development guru and, author of several well-regarded books on Spey casting, and an internationally known instructor).

I attended his beginning Spey seminar. He provided an easy to way to understand the elements of the Spey cast. He called it A-B-C: A-starting position of the cast; B-forward movement of the rod and arm; and C-the rotation of the rod. A simple but eloquent way of understanding a casting stroke can be overwhelming when making the transition from single-hand to two-handed casting.

The other thing he pointed out is learning the line length/rod length ratio that works for an individual caster (e.g., 2.65, 3.0,). He said that ratio would then work with any length of rod. So if a caster learned on one length rod and switched to another rod, maintaining that same ratio would allow the caster to quickly become comfortable with the new rod. As for line length, it includes the shooting head and the leader or sink tip.

After a lunch of Crusted Line Caught Rockfish and Chip in the Canyon River Grill, I attended his Single Handed Spey Casting seminar. Simon pointed out at the outset that using a weigh-forward line for single-hand Spey can be done, but it’s not optimal as the weight is forward and away from the rod tip during the roll casts. He recommended the use of a double-taper line for someone interested in focusing on single-handed Spey. He was using a line for the seminar that will be available in August; beyond that he just smiled.

Also providing Spey Casting instruction was Charles St. Pierre of Northwest Speycasting who was available all day for on-the-water instruction. Charles is widely known and regarded in the Northwest as a Spey-casting instructor and having both him and Simon on the same river at the same time was a real treat.

Every year the International Federation of Fly Fishers are on hand to help with lawn-casting instruction and beginner’s classes. I had one give me a tip when I was casting the Winston Nexus 6 weight; good tip from him, but I wasn’t impressed with the rod.

A change this year was a woman-only beginner class taught by Molly Semenik (Tie the Knot Fly Fishing) from Livingston, Montana. The class had 18 students, including my wife Terri. I think a seminar like this was long-overdue as it provided women an easy introduction to fly fishing with no pressure from husbands or significant others.

Terri came away excited and after casting a few demo days bought a Sage SALT (6 weight) from Red’s. Good choice! Great rod.

We also stopped to talk with Joe Rotter, the Guide Service Manager at Red’s. Joe’s just a great guy that we’ve talked with before, and after we thanked him for another great rendezvous, he said it was becoming what they wanted it to be: a celebration of fly-fishing. He said they’ve had some of their competitors show up without any feelings of awkward or resentment and that was he wanted.

As I’ve noted in other posts, in a small industry like fly-fishing cooperation and friendly respectful competition will help the sport grow and is good for everyone.

It was a great rendezvous. I look forward to next year’s!