Thursday, August 8, 2013

When I was 8

Spent the night in this restored tour bus
Fishing in Iowa 30 years ago -Tillamook Bay this July - On Not Forcing It ? 

Formative Moment ca. 1980

I wanted to talk about a "formative moment" that I had while fishing as a kid in Iowa. Formative moments are where something really clicks - like an epiphany I suppose. This particular thing seemed like magic to me when I was about 8. 

 We used to go to the Mississippi River only occasionally to fish when I was a kid. (usually we went to these really cool sand lakes called "the gravel pits"). My parents nicely gave us a lot of freedom at an early age - and we were allowed to ride our bikes a few miles from home by ourselves to fish and swim. 
Tillamook Bay at high tide
Jetty fishing with blue curl tails
Black Rockfish
The Mississippi - It was a kind of rare treat where you could catch some big weird fish that did not live in the ponds and sloughs we normally fished. (Flathead Catfish, Walleye, Sauger, Northern Pike, White Bass, Drum, Paddlefish, Longnose Gar ) Sometimes there were Sea Gulls there. There was an extensive rocky levee along the entire town and at certain points water pipes or effluent pipes poured water into the river. In the Spring these
were attractive to the fish as the industrial wastewater was often warmer than the river at a time when fish were spawning and looking for warmer water. We were fishing and a guy near us caught a fish I was unfamiliar with but had heard of ---- A
Walleye. He also caught this fish very close to shore on a lure. That lure was a bucktail jig that at the time my dad called a Doll Fly. It was white deer hair with a pink head. I had no idea what a fish would think that was. But the fact that you could walk around with one of these in your pocket and then catch a fish on it seemed amazing to me. It meant no more catching or buying bait. Suddenly fishing became simpler. My dad mentioned that he had caught fish like that right next to the bank and I was intrigued. I of course prior to this thought you also had to cast far out from the bank to catch fish. This guy caught the Walleye by just dragging the lure in a couple feet of water next to the bank. I went out and bought one of those jigs immediately. And later in high school caught several nice Walleye and big Largemouth Bass just like that. 

Sign at Nehalem Bay
Flash Forward to present:
Tillamook Bay 

Naomi and I went on a camping trip in July and had a true blast. 

We had the privilege of spending the first night in a cool old restored school bus made into a tour bus at 46 North Farm in Olney, OR. (Blind Pilot and the Nurses practice in the big neat barn here).  We first put the kayaks in on the Young's River. The Youngs is a short river that flows into the Columbia up by Astoria. And old timer at the boat ramp  tipped me off that supposedly some 25lb. female Chinook were already in - and he gave the boat ramp 45min. of casting an Orange Black Mepps before giving up.
Sand and Quiet at Whalen Island
 I asked him if any Sea-Run Cutthroat ever came into the Youngs and he said "rarely". (And so continues my search for the mythical Sea-Run Cutthroat). I hedged my bet and put on a #3 spinner small enough for Cutthroat and yet big enough for a potential Chinook. Unfortunately the river was filled with really aggressive tiny Steelhead or Chinook - that hit on every few casts. Seriously these youngsters were hitting a #3 spinner .....  I kept hoping to see one of these early- season salmon roll in the river but never did.

Meanwhile, Naomi was getting very close to some cows in her kayak and saving a wet and drowning honeybee from certain death at the hands of the ferocious baby steelhead. 

The Big Blast of the trip - 

I finally got out to Tillamook Bay and hit it just right. This is the biggest estuary in Oregon and has 5 rivers flowing into it. Consistent with the tide chart -  It seemed like it was high tide as the water was not moving and started moving out towards the end of my session. (reminds me to finally get a fishing thermometer also)  I had been there 3 years before in October and caught one Black Rockfish from the opposite shore.
(In this post I am going to use the term Sea Bass and Black Rockfish interchangeably though Black Rockfish is the more proper name.)
water loaded with baby fish
  So I was a bit encouraged that there could be fish there. In my first couple of sessions there had been trying to fish the really pretty flats there by wading on foot with no kayak assist and catch nothing or really small salmon. This bay looks so awesome with the clear aqua water and weed beds I sort of did not even mind going fishless for a few sessions in the spirit of experimenting. And the 4 mile hike each way along the south side is also incredible and we never see very many people on the trail or on the water. I was trying to force this West Coast bay to act like an East Coast one. As near as I can tell not even juvenile Halibut come into these bays and feed shallow. ? Maybe spawning Surf Perch earlier in the year?
I was fishing a 3/8 oz. blue purple 4" curl tail. Never fished Blue before!  (I'm fishing curl tail grubs or jerk shad  these days - when i'm not fishing a spinner.) The Sea Bass were hitting close to the rocks...but not so shallow that I could see the take in the 15' or so of water. They fight well and remind me a lot of small Grouper. 
Cape Falcon Kayaks Barn
But still fairly aggressive strikes with the jig still sinking on the drop. I like the curl tail jigs as the tail swims on the drop.  I kept moving East along the bay and finding and losing fish for a couple hours.

Meanwhile, Naomi hiked 16 miles!!  Someday we will get to this spot in the morning and get to spend the day out there (no camping allowed, though we usually are there til dark and then go camp at Whalen Island or Ginger's farm). Due to the busy season at our shop I have never been out there in the early spring when supposedly the Lingcod are in close.  

Further South along the Coast ---
Naomi in Nehalem River in Cape Falcon Boat
 We also got to kayak in Sand Lake near Whalen Island. This is actually a mind-shakingly pretty tidal bay with a great snaking sandy channel at low tide filled with baby fish, lots of wading birds and no people. Be Aware: at Low low tide it is impossible to get the last 1/4 mile to back to the boat ramp.  It was loaded with baby Surf Perch and Sculpin and a black damselfish looking fish that I have yet to identify. Out where this bay meets the ocean the confluence is pure sand...but I did catch a bigger sculpin on the jig-behind-popper rig. (This is a variation on the popping cork or Cajun Thunder rig).   This area also has a great lesser known county campground (Cape Lookout is closer to Bayocean, but very packed in summer, fun in winter).  Outgoing tide would make for some great snorkeling in some spots. 

Prepping Pad Thai in our outdoor kitchen at home 
(it's serious business)
For our last 2 days out we stopped at our friend Ginger's farm R-evolution Gardens in Nehalem.  Naomi got to try a handmade Kayak made by Brian Schulz at Cape Falcon Kayak. Nehalem Bay looked great but was too windy to kayak. We don't fight a crazy wind in paddle craft anymore if we can help it. So Naomi settled in for a good yoga session in a nook of trees. I cast a Jerk Shad for a while across the Seaweed beds hoping for an early stray wandering Chinook on the flats - (a very low percentage fishery...) This jerk shad actually too big of a lure for anything else at 6" - but it casts really far in windy conditions and is the best for shallow water and did not get hung up on all kinds of structure that I reeled it through. It has been working pretty good on Willamette Smallmouth. I actually only have the jerk hooks in 4/0 and 5/0 and really need to be fishing a much smaller plastic with the smallest jerk hook they make - the 2/0 - which isn't weighted... and they don't sell in Portland.  Tiny estuary Steelhead did patrol these shallows and chase lures.  But alas... as I mentioned before I have yet to find big fish shallow in Oregon bays...

Naomi is inspired by Ginger's to make a solar powered outdoor shower and our claw foot tub with greenhouse plants (they built an incredible bathhouse which is part of the Japanese Forest House Brian built, rentable on Air BnB) and we're finally capping our toilet and in the process of building a composting double seater and pee diverter yep, lookin' at you Ginger, Jeff and Carri @ Pitchfork and Crow, catchin' up.

End Note:


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