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Tough Luck

March 23rd, 2014

Destination trips have not been kind to me so far this year.

First, the passes iced up in Colorado, preventing a trip to the Dream Stream. Ivan and I made the most of that one before the snow started dropping again. The fish played along pretty well one night, and I got to spend some good time with some really good people (and of course Bosley dog). After a few cancelled flights and way too much time spent in airports, the first trip of the year was done and I was looking toward the next one.

20/20 ≠ skunk. Snapper Courtesy of Ivan.

20/20 ≠ skunk. Snapper Courtesy of Ivan Orsic.

Next up was Washington. First of all, it snowed two inches. Given that I was on a first name basis with Old Man Winter this year already, this was no oddity. However, 2″ had the Seattle area in a panic. For the sake of the fishing, the cold snap meant our Plan A* was frozen over. I add the asterix because the original Plan A was the Olympic Peninsula for my second annual trip to Steelhead Camp, but courtesy of low water and dismal early returns this idea was scrapped.

At this point, I have got to have some serious karma in my favor.

My original intention was to work on swinging flies for steelhead on the spey rod, as it’s a goal of mine this year to get better with the two-hander. I was lucky to get some tweaking of my spey casting by those who know it far (FAR) better than myself prior to the trip, tweaking which continued on the water throughout the trip. Turns out I’m quite good at prolonging the practice of bad habits.

Dump out, wring out, and re-cast. Photo via Evan Burck.

Dump out, wring out, and re-cast. Photo via Evan Burck.

The stubborn person that I am, I had no plans to change that mission even if the locales were changing. We ended up sticking to the nearby waters and were snubbed by steelhead, though char were willing to play along to some degree. I landed my first bull, which I was pretty excited about, and celebrated with a shoulders-upstream, fully-wadered swim in the Skagit. Of course, the following week saw greatly improved conditions, while I flew home and resumed my routine on the opposite side of the country, sans swung-up steelhead. Though I can say my confidence with the spey rod did improve. We’ll see if I can fight off the return of my own bad habits the next time I get a chance to swing some flies.

Since that trip, my thoughts were dominated by warm weather, the Lower Keys, and permit. With a stellar February for permit, it was shaping up well. I was to be joined by my buddy Nick Shirghio, who brought along his photo gear.

There was a LOT of straining the eyes looking for black-tailed devils. There was a whole lot less casting. Photo by Nick Shirghio.

There was a LOT of straining the eyes looking for black-tailed devils. There was a whole lot less casting. Photo by Nick Shirghio.

As luck would have it (and I should have seen it coming), a front pushed through, bringing with it a couple of days of 25+ winds. There were a couple of shots at fish, thwarted by wind, my own casting, and especially pesky barracuda. In what is likely to continue to be a common theme, Captain Rob Kramarz helped me a great deal with my casting (again) and gave Nick and I a clinic on finding and targeting permit in exceptionally questionable conditions. Figures the morning I was flying out brought better weather and hopefully some better fishing for the anglers and the guides in the March Merkin**. I should have known better than planning my trip to coincide with the Merkin: the event is historically associated with dismal conditions. To think this year was said to be the best conditions in the tournament’s history…

Does it make me crazy that I’m looking forward to the next destination? At this point, I have got to have some serious karma in my favor. Permit are still 2014′s bucket list fish for saltwater, but a follow is a lot closer than I was to catching one a week ago.

**The 2014 March Merkin saw six total fish caught. That’s five more than last year. This year, one fish was caught Tuesday (Day 1), two were caught Wednesday (by a single guide-angler combo), and three were caught Thursday (by a different guide-angler combo). THREE fish in ONE day. Huge congratulations to Captain Scott Collins and angler Greg Smith for an epic day to take home the win, but also to all the other guides and anglers who fought tough conditions in the name of a great competition. Maybe one day, many, MANY years from now…

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