Thursday, August 30, 2012

H: August 30, 2012: Here's a couple of photos from the Deschutes and Klickitat, courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

Flygirl Hyun Kounne spey casting on the Klickitat River, WA
Spey casting on the Klickitat.
Flygirl Hyun Kounne fishing on the Deschutes river, OR
Fishing a run on the lower Deschutes.

She and Marty write a terrific blog, Metalheads. Check out this video of Tegan, their adorable 4-year-old daughter, feeling the power and fight of her first steelhead. Thanks, Mia for the pics. Tight loops to you, sista!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Heart Oregon!

H: August 19, 2012: Here's the 3rd and final installment of my PNW trip report. So, it's not in  chronological order... what the heck!

Columbia River Gorge

The beautiful Columiba River Gorge, WA
The gorge-ous Columbia River :).
H: I needed a day off from fishing so I packed a picnic and drove along the Columbia river, watching the multitude of windsurfers, kitesurfers, and sailboats dart back and forth between Oregon and Washington. I stopped at the Mary Hill Museum (Mia's suggestion), expecting to spend an hour or so looking at art. I ended up spending 3+ hours exploring the most eclectic collection of art and objects I've seen in a while—Native American artifacts, Rodin sculptures, Romanian decorative and religious objects, a diverse mix of 19th- to early 21st-century European and American paintings, the surreal Theatre de la Mode (Post WWII french fashion miniatures), an amazing collection of chess sets from all over the world, and much more... But the best part for me was wandering the grounds and admiring sculptures by local PNW artists, some against the stunning backdrop of the gorge. Here are a few of my favorites:

Lovely Statue at Mary Hill Musuem: Bird of Paradise, Ellen Tykeson (Eugene, OR)
Bird of Paradise, Ellen Tykeson (Eugene, OR)
Lovely state at Mary Hill Museum: Malabar Bombax, Matt Cartwright (Portland, OR)
Malabar Bombax, Matt Cartwright (Portland, OR)
Lovely statue at Mary Hill Museum: Quantum Man, Julian Voss-Andreae (Portland, OR)
Quantum Man, Julian Voss-Andreae (Portland, OR)
Afterwards, I hit a few vineyards and purchased way too many bottles of wine before making my way back to Hood River. I stopped in at the Gorge fly shop and purchased a few big black and purple flies for the next day's fishing.

Back to the Klick
The next day, I went back to the Klickitat river to fish, solo. Jenn recommended I head upriver to Stinson Flats. The drive up was breathtaking with stunning views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams to be had. It was a lovely and fairly remote spot. I arrived just before light. There was a white SUV parked by the river but no one was in sight. It seemed I had the river to myself.

View of Mount Adams, WA
Mount Adams, the source of the Klickitat.
I was lost in my fishing, the solitude of the river, and the rhythms of my cast... when suddenly a man's voice broke the silence. I nearly jumped out of my waders! He was standing right behind me and apologized for startling me. He told me he had been asleep in the white SUV (apparently the best night's sleep he's had in a while). Turns out he'd been fishing on the Deschutes the day before with Bachmann. He knew exactly who I was and that I'd caught my first steelhead earlier that week (Jeez, it's a freakin small world, huh?). He said he would head further upstream and start fishing. We wished each other luck. I proceeded to fish down...

At the next run, I sensed eyes on me and slowly turned around. This time, to my surprise and delight, there was a beautiful doe grazing behind me with her 2 fawns. We held eye contact briefly before she concluded I was just a harmless flygirl :). They kept me company for a while before moving on.

I stopped and fished a few other spots on the Klickitat on my way back to Hood River, but unfortunately had no luck—not a single bump. I would spot a nice piece of water from the car but when I got out to fish, often times, it would be impossible to enter the river or to wade for any good distance. The Klick would be a great river to float (with Jenn as guide :)! It's a very different river from the Deschutes, at least the parts that I've fished. It's smaller and more intimate. Its landscape is sub-alpine forest rather than desert canyon. But there's one thing they have in common—they're both challenging to fish. The Klick is not an easy river to get to know. Her milky waters make for difficult wading and her currents can be deceptively fast. I guess I'll just have to return and spend more time getting to know her :).

Stinson Flats, Klickitat River, WA
Stinson Flats, Klickitat River, WA

The City of Roses
The very first day, I walked all over Portland. I spent almost 2 hours in the fly fishing section of Powell Books, leafing through some 1st editions with gorgeous historic fly plates :). Then I met up with Kat and we went to Washington park, walking through the Rose test garden (which oddly was not particularly fragrant) on our way to the Japanese garden.

Waterlily at the Japanese Garden, Portland, OR
A perfect water lily at the Japanese garden.
I truly love Portland and her super friendly, laid back, eco-conscious inhabitants. You'll find yourself naturally striking up a conversation with strangers you happen to meet walking down the street! You'll be hard pressed to get a bad meal here (coming from a NYC foodie, that's a serious compliment). Defintiely go to Le Pigeon, sit at the chef's counter, and watch chef Rucker in the tiny open kitchen whip up creative french fare with a local PNW twist. Absolutely go and eat the perfect breakfast sandwich (made with tons of heart! ;) at The Big Egg food truck, in a pod out in Northeast Portland. Sample as many locally handcrafted brews as you can and good luck trying to decide between hundreds of excellent Oregon wines at Vinopolis in Downtown Portland.

The Big Egg food truck in Portland, OR
The Big (yellow) Egg food truck–absolutely delicious!
My advice is to take it day-by-day. It's funny how I was headed to Mt. Hood one day to cool off and do some summer skiing or snowboarding (in t-shirt and hiking pants ;). But instead, I met up with Marty Sheppard on the Sandy river, practiced casting and fished for a couple of hours, drove north to the Columbia river and took a sharp left... Before I knew it, I was on the Pacific coast, stopping to take in the amazing views and killing time in a small coastal town called Manzanita. You really can't take a bad turn anywhere! If it wasn't for her notoriously long and dreary rainy season, this native New Yorker might seriously consider uprooting to the PNW. I truly heart Oregon! (and parts of Washington, too :)

More tourist snapshots :)

Sandy River deer crossing
Deer crossing at the Sandy River.

View of Mount Hood, OR
The omnipresent Mount Hood. Everywhere you look, there she is...
View from the Pacific Coast Highway, OR
A view from the Pacific Coast Highway.
Driftwood sculpture on Pacific Coast beach, OR
Driftwood sculpture on Pacific Coast beach, OR
Nature's beautiful sculptures...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Steelhead Sisters

H: August 17, 2012: It was sad leaving the Deschutes river and parting ways with Kat, Michele, and George. You couldn't ask for better fishing and traveling companions! But thoughts of a long shower and laying on crisp cotton sheets, cooled by the cold blast of some a/c made it somewhat less painful. (I guess I'd make a horrible dirtbag ;). After a quick stop at the Deschutes Angler in Maupin, Kat, Michele, and George headed back to Portland. I drove north to the Columbia River gorge and the Dalles.

I was scheduled to fish with Mia Sheppard and Jenn Mitchell on the lower Deschutes the following day. Mia and Jenn both own and operate fly fishing guide services in Oregon and Washington (Little Creek Outfitters and The Evening Hatch). Our original plan had been to float the Klickitat river across the border in Washington with Jenn as our guide. But the recent spell of hot weather called for Plan B. The Klick could blow at any moment. Mia suggested an area called Kloan on the lower Deschutes. The 3 of us would just meet up and fish.

Steelhead Sisters: Jennifer Mitchell, Hyun Kounne, and Mia Sheppard
The Steelhead sistas! (Jenn, Hyun, and Mia :)
Mia stayed over in the Dalles with me. For some reason I expected her to be a tall girl (an Amazon flyfishergirl). Turns out she's about my height. We met up with Jenn (the Amazon ;) at 4:30 am the following morning and drove to the Deschutes. The drive down to the river was an adventure in and of itself. The only way in (besides by boat) is on the worst possible, pothole-ridden, narrow, one lane dirt road you can imagine. It snaked steeply down into the canyon. To your left was an unobstructed dropoff straight down to the mighty Deschutes. The views were breathtaking, especially with first light slowly creeping up behind the canyon walls.

There was 1 other vehicle there when we arrived. 2 guys were camped out by the river near the parking area. They were up, drinking coffee, and walking around in just their tighty whities. I'm sure the last thing they expected to see early that morning was 3 flygirls getting out of an SUV, donning waders, and rigging up their rods ;). They disappeared from view momentarily and emerged shortly afterwards fully dressed and very curious about who we were. They were very sweet. Apparently they've been coming to the Deschutes to fish for over 20 years. Thanks to them, we have a picture of the steelhead sistas :).

Lower Deschutes Rivers, Kloan
The lower Deschutes, Kloan.
There was tons of great water to explore. We spread out and fished run after run. In hindsight, I wish I had taken a break to watch Mia or Jenn fish, hang out, and take some pictures... But for some reason, put me on a river with fly rod in hand, and I just can't help it—I lose myself—and all other intentions fall by the wayside. I must confess I was nervous casting in front of Mia and Jenn. I generally feel very uncomfortable when people watch me cast and Mia being a champion spey caster didn't help ;). My first few casts were pretty clunky. But they quickly put me at ease with their warmth and encouragement and even gave me a couple of pointers. By morning's end, I was relaxed and my casting was much improved. We fished till late morning but unfortunately, none of us hooked into any steel.

We hiked back to the car. By some miracle, Jenn had cell service. She heard that the Klick was still fishable (1-2 feet of visibility), so we made our way out of the Kloan and drove over to the Washington side of the Columbia river. Mia would join us later after she took care of some pressing work emails and phone calls. Jenn and I drove upriver, stopping along the way to check out conditions. As we went further upstream, Jenn noticed the water clarity deteriorating. So we drove back down river and managed to fish a couple of spots before we had to call it a day. It sure would have been fun if one of us had hooked a "hot" Klickitat steelhead. But I still had a great time with my steelhead sisters! Hope to fish with them again next time I'm out west.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Camp Deschutes

Steelhead camp on the Deschutes River, OR

H: August 12, 2012: I might have to forego a detailed trip report or crank it out in installments. Frankly, I'm completely and utterly exhausted (in a very good way :). I'll just start writing bits til I'm somehow done...

Arrived back in NYC this morning on the red eye from Portland. Yeap, caught my first steelhead. Whoo hooo! But the only picture I have is a somewhat surreal (Hyun in Wonderland) image of me holding a ginormous net with a 29-inch steelie floating inside. I look like a 12-year old kid :). Photo courtesy of Mark Bachmann.

Flygirl Hyun Kounne with her first steelhead, Deschutes river, OR
That's a freakin' huge net! (or a very small flygirl ;)
As Mark likes to say, I caught my first west coast steelhead in a real "big girl spot" (Crocodile Rock). It was our first morning on the Deschutes, just before sunrise. I entered the water, took 1 step forward and was chest high in the river. I shouted to Mark and Kat who were hanging out in the boat, "Hey, the water is really deep." Mark yelled back, "No, you're really short." I guess it all depends on how you look at it. I laughed and preceded to fish.

It was by far the toughest wading I've ever experienced. You had to maneuver over and around a veritable minefield of rocks, logs, and boulders of every shape and size—some as big as houses (ok, doghouses ;). I was so close to a dunking more times than I care to remember. Try playing a game of 3-dimensional Twister in moving water while attempting to fly fish. Even Kat commented that she wondered what the heck I was doing out there at (or performing a weird ceremonial steelhead dance ;).

Mark Bachmann with steelhead, Deschutes river, OR
Mark with my catch of the day.
My first taste of steel would be a 29-inch, 9 pound, hatchery fish caught on the swing with a green butt skunk. It fought more like a super strong stubborn brown than anything. It hunkered down, took several short but powerful runs and jumped once. After 15 minutes of tug-of-war, it was sufficiently tired out and led into the monster net. Mark asked whether I wanted to keep it. I had no idea that was even an option. I yelled over to Kat and without hesitation she replied, "Hell, yes! We're keeping it!" I've since learned that's what hatchery fish are for—eating. It was mighty good eating, too. Thank you, my lovely steelie for an absolutely delicious feast!

Lord almighty! It was hotter than Hades at Camp Deschutes—107+ degrees during the heat of the day. It just sucked the energy out of you. Every day we were up at 4:30 am and on the water by 5. During the afternoons, it was too hot to nap in our tents, so we would try and cool off with a dip in the river or practice our spey casting. Kat, Michele, George, and I spent one afternoon on the river watching each other cast and offering advice and suggestions. It was great fun! We also had a chance to cast all the different outfits we were fishing with.

Besides catching my first steel, the other highlight of the trip was being present when Kat landed her first. It was our turn to stay home and fish camp waters. A beautiful 31-inch wild steelhead took Kat well into her backing and jumped numerous times. She just brought it in as if she's been doing it for years. I had the pleasure of tailing it for her.

Kat Rollin with her first steelhead on the Deschutes river
Kat's first steelhead–a wild one!
Delicious, free flowing Oregon pinot noirs and lively conversation with George, Michele, Kat, and Mark made the trip thoroughly enjoyable. At Camp Deschutes, Mark was our guide, our host, our cook, ...our everything. That's a lot to ask of 1 man. I can't help chuckling whenever I think about the "Phil O'Dendron" story he told us. Mark had lots of interesting stories to share. He knows a tremendous amount about the history and geology of the region. 

I've fished on rivers with 4 different guides during my 3 years of fly fishing and each one was different from the last. I didn't know what to expect with Bachmann... Well, don't expect a coach who will critique your technique. As a beginner spey caster and first time steelhead flygirl, a bit more advice and feedback would have been welcomed. I mentioned this during brunch the second day. I told him I have no problem with a guide telling me what I'm doing wrong or how I can do something better (as long as they tell me nicely ;).

With Bachmann, you can expect to be taken to the best spots for fishing and he'll point out where the fish are likely holding. He might even step in and fish with you (he did just that with Kat and I on our last night). But generally, once you're in the water, you're pretty much on your own... Until you manage to hook a fish, then he'll be right there beside you, videotaping and offering up some great color commentary with his huge net handy. For the experienced steelhead angler and spey caster, Mark is your man. He probably knows the Deschutes better than just about anyone.

Our last stop on our last night of fishing was Humility Run. You're literally backed up against a wall of dense shrubbery and trees, standing on a rocky ledge about a foot wide, that drops off into much deeper waters. To make matters worse, it really started to blow hard. I jokingly asked Bachmann if he had brought us there to teach us some humility ;). He laughed. Before he could respond, I told him  Kat and I were definitely not wanting for any. We were both humbled by the mighty Deschutes and the challenge that is steelhead fishing—a challenge both of us can't wait to take on again!

George, Michele, Hyun, Kat, Mark on the Deschutes river, OR
The gang: George, Michele, me, Kat, and Mark.
Next stop: Exploring the Columbia River gorge and fishing with 2 PNW flyfishergirls on the Deschutes (again) and the Klickitat river in Washington.