“I’ve got stuff to do” Like chasing steelhead

Steelhead season is upon us and knowing my friend Jon would be biting at the nails to go on a trip I gave him a call. This guy lives for going out and steelheading with copious amounts of beer drinking to help pass the time. We decided to take a chance and head out on a river that we never have been before. With many good reports from my customers I was really itching to go and try this new river. It was made clear to me that this river is magical and a very nice treat to go to, so for now this river will not be named. Sorry guys, it is a place that I now hold in a high regard.

A few days prior to leaving Jon and I met up at his house to plan who was bringing what and how we were getting there. It really turned into getting dinner, drinking beer and showing off the flies we were going to use. I made sure to bring over my brand new fly wallet from Lost River Leather that Merrick made for me. From big nasty intruders to traditional spey flies we had about everything in the book to try and catch the “fish of a thousand casts”. The few things we actually planned was that I were to bring my large tent and cots. That was about it, this trip was poorly planned but we made the best of it.
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On Friday morning Jon came to my house we loaded up the gear and we were on the road around 4:45am. We were making good time and getting really excited about fishing. We were able to google map areas on the river for places that looked like great holding areas for steelhead. We were getting close so we decided we needed to fill up with gas and Jon’s truck takes premium fuel since it’s a newer vehicle and it was my turn to pay for gas. Premium gas was, $3.99 a gallon for 92 octane I could already tell we made it too far from town. I sucked it up and paid $45 for a little over 11 gallons of gas. Mind you going rate in town is around $2.40 for premium. I could tell this was going to be an expensive trip.

Flash forward! Tent was set up and we were ready to start fishing around 1pm. We both had our spey rods ready for action with some big ugly flies to get the steelheads attention when swinging our Skagit lines through the water. Wading out into some very nice water under a bridge where another stream came and greeted the main river looked to be the hot ticket. I walked through first because I raced out there as fast as I could. Without any bumps to speak of and my Skagit head was sinking like a rock for whatever reason so I was snagging up a lot and getting very frustrated. Jon got a few hits but couldn’t seal the deal. We got out and headed up stream to fish some other runs to see if our luck was better. This time I tied on a nice traditional skunk by fly in hopes it would bring me something, it sure did. As I made my step down to make another cast as soon at my fly hit the water, SPLASH! “OHHHH” I yelled. I stepped on a slimly boulder and fell in right up to my neck in the river and the water filled my veins with ice. The cold knocked the breath right out of me. I recovered quickly and luckily I always wear a wading belt so I wasn’t too wet. Jon on the other hand was having the time of his life laughing at me. “It was like one of those cartoons, I heard you yelp and all I saw was your hat floating on the water you completely disappeared” he said. Holding in my pride I fished a little longer as the sun was starting to hide behind the mountain. That was the only excitement we had at the run. We headed back so I could get a change of clothes to warm up and go eat.

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Scarfing down an excellent burger with a cold beer was what I needed after my cold plunge. I ate pretty quickly and I was off back down to the hole we walked through earlier under the bridge. I tied on a hobo spey fly that I tied myself. I made a few casts and nothing really happened. I had one of those good feelings on the next cast. You know the kind that lays out perfect and your swing is just money. Click click click went my reel… I waited for a split second and line started peeling off my loose drag. I set the hook and I feel a few good wiggles and that was it. I started stripping my line in as fast and I could and low and behold a Northern Pike Minnow took my fly. At this time night was starting to creep up on us and we headed for the tent to play cards go to bed.
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The next morning came quickly and Jon and I were up ready to fish. I decided I would switch up my approach by skating dry flies to see if I could get a rise out of a steelhead. We met an older gentleman named Don from the night before at the restaurant we ate all our meals at and he gave me some pointers on how to skate the fly properly. I lined up my switch rod and put on a skater fly and we headed out to a small run by our camping site. I was fishing a little pocket of water for fun trying to practice what Don explained to me. It payed off, I caught a beautiful little rainbow. I fished the run behind Jon and when he got down to the end we packed it up and headed down stream. Nothing exciting had happened. Jon was getting bumps but nothing hooked. I switched over to nymphing with an egg pattern and a October Caddis nymph. We got to a spot with two very short runs so I took the upper one while Jon swung the lower. I found a nice rock to stand on to make my casts in the swift water. My bobber shot down instantly. I found bottom, so I adjusted accordingly and made another cast and my bobber shot down again, so I set the hook like I would normally and I felt life on the other end. I got excited because it was pulling my rod tip down hard, I got the fish on the reel and yelled at Jon to get up where I was fishing. “You sure you actually got one” he exclaimed. “Yeah I think so” I yelled back. After those words left my mouth my reel lite up and was singing. “Yup got one” I smiled as I saw the rosey red cheeks of the steelhead bolting back and forth. My forearm was getting a little tired, I had been fighting the fish in the current for about 10 minutes now. Jon grabbed my net and I got down from my rock that I was casting from and started making my way down steam a little to get some line on my reel. I was getting the fish in close and it shot between the rocks and my line went limp and came flying back at me. I yelled so loud my vocal chords hurt afterward and all I heard Jon say is “well that was awesome” as he smiled.
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Later that evening we decided to fish a run that we hoped to be productive since we saw two guys catch a fish each out of it. We had been eyeing it all day and finally got the chance to have a go at it. I decided I would skate dries again to see if something would rise on the water. This time I put on my Cutthroat reinforced heavy duty leader. This was the first time ever using a furled leader so I was a bit skeptical and so was Jon. I asked Jon if he had a different style of fly I could use to skate dries with a he gave me a little flashier October caddis. We trudged up stream and ran into Don who was fishing. I watched him delicately cast out his scandi line on the water. I told Don we were going to fish the fish the run above him and he said have at it and told us he “had stuff to do”. Jon on and thought it was rather funny the mysterious way he said it so it was a joke of the weekend saying “I’ve got stuff to do”.

We arrived to the run and Jon fished the upper portion swinging flies while I fished the lower portion. My skating abilities had improved tremendously with practice! The fly was making a nice v shape trail behind it and good action from me bouncing my rod tip up and down. The furled leader was excellent, it was very delicate on the water. I took a few steps down, the sun was trying to hide behind the mountain. I decided I was going to nymph, but in fisherman fashion I made a few last casts. On one of my last casts an explosion happened on the water and my fly was gone. I startled me and I set the hook toward the bank. I hear Jon yell “No god damn way, ol B-ri with his cutthroat leader”. The fish kept rolling and thrashing about I got it on my reel. The pole felt heavy so I knew it was a decent fish. The symphony my reel was playing was music to my ears. Reeling the steelhead in was a task, I finally got it into some slow water that was above me and netted it. What an amazing gift this fish has given me on a skated dry fly! I got him out of the net and got a quick photo and back in the cold running water. Jon looks up at me and tells me “I get first go through on every run now”. That was fine by me, I was satisfied with the whole trip at this moment in time.
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The last day arrived quickly. We fished the run in front of where we were camping for a little bit before we went and packed up. Nothing exciting was happening so I started heading back to pack some stuff up and let Jon finish out the run. Jon ended up hooking a pretty rainbow on the swing right as he was about to leave. I was glad to hear that he did catch something instead of getting completely skunked. All I could think of was that magical connection I had between that fish that decided to give me a gift of a memory that will play in my head forever as we headed back home.

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Sturgeon for Soldiers

Having a small internet community isn’t unheard of. Southwest Idaho fishing is a little more than just a small group. It consists of over 6000 members. A group that I help manage on Facebook has grown into a very amazing community. From tips on how to catch fish, fishing reports and fish recipes it is a very productive and helpful group. We have had meet and greats and a few outings so far. For the people who know me, know that I am all about fishing; and so is our group and I say our because we are like a family. The Southwest Idaho Fishing page (or SWIF, for short) was created by a good friend of mine; Eric Cetovick. Like most anglers he is a very nice guy who is willing to help others as much as he can. Also, since my pal Eric is a veteran, and has served multiple tours in Iraq, he had a splendid idea. He wished to help out his fellow soldiers by creating a fund raiser to raise money and awareness for Project Healing Waters. If you do not know what Project Healing Waters is, it is an organization that “is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.” (projecthealingwaters.org) As soon as he proposed this idea to me I was on board very excited I am a big fan of helping out charities. Eric did all the footwork I was always there to help, if or when he needed it.
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As soon as Eric announced on Facebook that SWIF would be conducting an all-day charity event at the Schwartz pond in Parma, Idaho, we noticed that many people were eager to sign up for such an event. The entry fee was $10 and new sign ups started pouring in! Mr. Schwartz being the nice guy that he is donated the pond for the SWIF group members to use for the day! This means that everyone’s entry fee went straight to fund the Healing Waters! A private pond that is a little over 3 acres was at our disposal and it is full of fish. Trees lined the bank with green grassy areas to sit. It was a fisherman’s delight. However not just any fish were in this pond, the majority of them were sturgeon! The size of the sturgeon ranged from 1 foot long all the way up to an impressive 5 feet! Now if that doesn’t get you excited I am not sure what else will!

Eric and I had planned to meet at the pond early in the morning to set things up for the participants (or it could’ve been the fact we wanted to catch the first fish!) Our arranged meeting time was at 6am on Sunday morning. I was certain I had arrived to the pond first. I had found the pond without any issue, so I turned on the dirt road to come around the pond and park to wait for Eric. Little did I know I had chosen the incorrect road that did not lead to the pond. A little while later, I look down at my phone to see Eric had texted me. The message read, “Where are you?” I immediately recognized that I was not in the right location and became frustrated because I knew I was out in the boonies and not anywhere close to my destination. I drove for several more minutes before finally finding a spot to turn around. To my surprise, I saw three bright halogen lights coming towards me. A spacecraft? No, it was an angry farmer going to reprimand me for being on his/her property. The lights of the ATV blinded me as I slowed to a stop. As I rolled down my window and I am greeted with, “I see you decided to take the scenic route, eh?” It was Mr. Schwartz himself! This was the first time I have ever met the man and he was welcoming and pointed me to the right road to turn off to get to the pond. With a chuckle he started up his quad and rode off into the dark. Now that it was 6:40am 40 minutes past our meeting time I was getting anxious to get out on the water.

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Now in the right area Eric and I both lined up as fast as we could to get out casting on the water. The sun was coming up and the sturgeon where taunting us with big jumps out of the water. The fish were flailing about like large whales in the small pond. The fish were not happy to see us and our fly rods. After some time spent fishing we had no luck. We decided to head toward the truck to get things set up for the day. People started showing up at 9am and stared staking out their spots around the pond. Smiles were wide as participants came to get there special event sticker. I knew it was going to be a productive morning.

Around 9:20 someone was already hooked up on a little sturgeon and brought it in with comforting ease on his massive sturgeon pole. Everything became active from that point on, the fish were very happy to eat worms and cut bait thrown out in the water. At one point there was 3 or 4 people hooked up on fish over 4 feet! I sat on the bank watching the excitement from other anglers catching very large fish.  I was very lucky to be able to help a gentleman out by flipping the sturgeon he had caught on its back for him while he rolled up his pant legs to get in the water for a photo. The fish was rough to the touch like sand paper. I was just as excited as the other guy because I was able to touch a prehistoric beast. It was an amazing experience!  As the man knelt down to hold the fish for release. Mr. Schwartz comes up and yelled “Hey that is old stubby!” I look at one of the fins and low and behold one was a stub! After a quick shot the fish was flipped over and with a quick sway of its tail it was gone.
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As a fly fisherman it was hard for me to think of using bait. Sitting there waiting for a fish to bite. I like being active and casting or even using a lure. Bait come on! Well I wanted to catch my first sturgeon so I barrowed Eric’s cat fish pole and stuck a worm on a casted out into a shaded area of the pond. There I sat, sitting waiting, doing absolutely nothing! The time went by so slow and seemed as though father time put on the brakes. Four minutes had passed since my first cast… my rod thumped in my hand and I set the hook! With a mild splash a little sturgeon surfaced and thrashed. I got the fish close enough for me to try and grab him. Eric asked if I wanted help and I told him that “I want to do it all by myself” As I reached down to grab the fishes tail he shakes out of my hand. Eric busted with laughter to tell me “Brian it’s not a trout you need to flip the fish over.” Heck I didn’t know I figured it was only about a 25 inch fish and figured I could handle it. I was wrong these guys are strong. I got a quick photo with the fish and let him kick out of my hands back into the pond. Well that was enough bait fishing I could stand, plus I had some other obligations I had to attend to that day.
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All in all we had 82 people participate raising a donation of $820 for Project Healing Waters. What an amazing way to spend the day and helping out people who protect our country and freedom. It was a fun experience I and I would love to go out and do it again. I think next time I’ll bring my float tube and put it to the test.

Reel Recovery, Real Life

I have come to the realized fact that I will never be able to change the world. Tough shit right? However I have concluded that I can impact and change a single person’s life. Taking a step towards the right direction is always a step gained. When I reached out to my fellow anglers at the Reel Recovery retreat I figured out how to get that one step closer. We all figured out how to get one step further away from the absurdities life throws us, even if it was only for a few days. Isn’t that why we all fish? A true angler doesn’t go out for the fish. He goes out to find a body of water to focus on one thing: “Keeping his eye on the fly.” My interpretation of those words that were said to me by a participant of Reel Recovery is as follows. I can keep my eye on the fly because I can control where my fly lands. It can land in the sorrow, shallow depths of some stagnant water or it can land in crisp clean fast moving water. What would you choose: To feel sorry and pitiful, or strong and courageous? These men on the retreat chose to throw their fly in the strong courageous water not knowing what was about to come next.

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Being a young adult, I use FaceBook probably more often then I should. Nonetheless social media is what led me to Reel Recovery. I saw a post by a fellow known as Hank Patterson or Hank Parker, as some like to call him. His post sated that he was in need of men to come help out at a retreat to teach cancer patients how to fly fish. I was hands down all in. Anyone who knows me should know that I love to fish and enjoy teaching others how to fly fish. I got ahold of Hank and got the ball rolling by going to www.reelrecovery.org by filling out some simple forms. One of the sections it asked, “What was you experience with cancer?” I answered it the only way I could. My father had colon cancer when I was younger.  He went through chemotherapy and radiation and is now he is 10 years cancers free. I didn’t think anything of it, but Bob Macias (State Coordinator of Reel Recovery) thought differently. Bob called me with a cheery tone in his voice. He gave me a little information on what was going to happen at the retreat. He then asked me if my father would like to come as a participant and added how cool it would be to have him converse with the other participants and give them hope. Bob also added that it would be the first time ever there would be a father and son group at the Reel Recovery. Shortly after, I made a phone call to my father and purposed the idea to him. He was instantly onboard!

We arrived at Wild Horse Creek Ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho on Friday July 10th not knowing what to expect. As my father and I hopped out of the truck we were greeted with handshakes and smiles. My father and I parted ways for the evening because he attended the group meeting to go to. I had some beers to drink with the other fishing buddies. Now If I could describe each individual fishing buddy I would take hours of your time for each guy. So let me put it in a simple way, they were like the brothers I never had. We had an amazing camp cook named Steve Weston. He kept everyone happy and was a damn funny guy might I add!

Saturday morning rose with thunder clouds circling like hawks above us, waiting to strike down rain without any notice. Getting all the gear out, which consisted of waders, vests and fly poles all lined up, we waited patiently for the participants to get done with breakfast. We were eager to go slay some fish. After a quick vest signing ceremony and handing out PostFly box’s donation of fly out we were off and out in vehicles, ready to hit the water. The first gentleman I took out was named was Kurt. He had some fly fishing experience from the past and we set out to find a nice fishing hole to see if anyone (the fish) were happy to see us. They weren’t… not a darn thing happened. Beside the point of having caught no fish, we were having a great time. Laughing at every time he got his fly stuck, we managed to free it many times before we actually snapped off and lost it to a tree fish. The morning fishing didn’t last long so we headed back in for lunch just in time as the clouds decided that they needed to lighten their load and a down pour commenced shortly thereafter. We had a quick lunch and the rain subsided thereafter and the guys were jonesin to get back on the water.

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This time I was paired up with David who was a wildly young soul at the age of 80. He was speedy, agile, and a good caster. We set off going up further on the river then I had gone in the morning. We got out of the truck and did a little hike to a nice hole that looked promising. David laid his fly out on the water and it instantly sank because of the currents. Letting the fly drown and swing through the hole got some attention though. A 14” cutthroat came out and took his fly. “Keep tension!” I yelled excitedly. I was more excited to see him hooked up then he was. Playing the fish with PLENTLY of tension on the rod, I dipped my net down to scoop the fish when I heard a loud pop. SNAP! I was successful in netting the fish and David was successful at snapping his rod. After a quick photo we tried to mend his rod but to no avail. By that time, we had to head back to the lodge for dinner. I made sure to tell David to tell everyone at dinner that his fish was so big it snapped his rod. It was a partially true fishing story! The fishing buddies and I had another amazing dinner thanks to Steve.

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The next morning came quick, with clear skies and fly anglers ready to get out on the water. We wasted no time eating and gearing up to head out. The final day had come upon us. I was paired with Allen, who was a badass. He was a hunter, fisher and all around nice guy. We hit the water in good fashion and I educated him on bugs in the water and how to get a good drift in order to fool a fish into taking his fly. I decided to get off the water and head to the spot where David had caught his fish the day before. I set Allen up on  nymphing since nothing was hitting on top. After his first cast into the hole he hooked up a nice 10 inch rainbow trout. A quick photo and a fist bump later, he had his fly back into the water. “Bobbers down!” I yelled. He set the hook again and brought in a 12 inch cutthroat! We were getting excited after two casts in a row with a fish on! A few more drifts through the water hole gave us no luck. I mentioned how he should drift the flies further out in the in the pocket and as soon as he did a huge flash and his bobber disappeared.  “It is down! It is down!” I repeated. The fish thrashed violently and pulled line from his hand. It was a big fish for the skinny waters we were fishing. I netted the 16” cutthroat and Allen was beside himself. His smile ran from ear to ear as he released the fish back into the water to live another day. It was a great way to top off the day because it quickly came to an end. Allen and I got back into the truck and headed back to the ranch for lunch and ending ceremony.

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After a successful day, we attended the ending ceremony. It was short and sweet. We stood in two circles, with the participants standing in an inner circle, and the fishing buddies located on the outer circle. We reflected on where this weekend had taken us physically and mentally. A gentleman said he gained his sense of humor back because of his experience with us. To know that just our simple actions brought this guy back his smile could make anyone happy. The participants joined hands by putting their right fists in with thumbs out to be held by people right next to them to form a circle, then us buddies laid our hands on the should of them and brothers around us. We were all connected. On the count of three Bob said, “Be Well, Fish On!” The mountains boomed with echoes of the voices of men who had been touched by Reel Recovery. I discussed earlier how I, as a person could not change the world but could impact an individual. We impacted 11 participants and they ended up returning the favor. It is a beautiful cycle that everyone needs to experience in one way or another. We laughed and we cried. But most of all, we kept our eye on the fly. It was back to reality for everyone as we parted and ways and went home. It was hard to part ways.

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This is my challenge to all those who read this, how many individuals can you impact positively? If one person could impact another in a positive way then it will start a chain reaction.  How much of a difference can you make? Think about it.

Brothers,

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Be Well and Fish On.

Brian Prescott