jeff eklund

Drano Lake 2018

I’ve spent 11 days in May fishing our favorite place, Drano Lake which included a lot of time off work and busy weeks! Overall, Drano was okay to us. It can’t be great fishing every day, but this year there was a whole lot of random boats doing well which I’m happy for, really, I am……..But when a bone isn’t thrown our way every once in a while and you don’t see the normal boats doing that great either, it makes you wonder what’s going on. You make changes, clean things, try different things, and still……We never felt like we had it figured out like we have in historical years but sometimes, that’s just how the Fish God’s play the game.

Birthday Weekend:

We kicked off the season with Jeff’s annual birthday trip with his parents. Jeff & I made it down Friday to see what was going on while his parents & his uncle met up with us later that evening. We managed to get a few that evening and having missed the entire morning, we were very happy with where we ended the day. We skipped the morning bite that entire weekend so that we could sleep in and be ready to go all night which ended up paying off……..Most of the days.

 

Saturday night was May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) and it was sure a site to see in the toilet bowl! There were more people than normal that night celebrating with a few extra beers and the fun began! Fishing wasn’t that great, but it didn’t matter because the entertainment was enough to keep us out until dark! There were a few people, and even a pup, that went swimming – mostly by mistake and a WHOLE LOT OF LAUGHTER! This place is where the friends are made and after 10 hours in the bowl, your guard is gone and part of your sanity is also gone. We got a few more fish Saturday but still, it wasn’t limits and we certainly weren’t one of the top 5 boats.

Sunday quite a bit slower during the day and I think we scratched out one fish all day. There is something about Jeff’s dad on a Sunday night after he’s had a few beers that the fish really like. After 5 PM we ended up losing a couple but putting another 6 fish in the box for a final count that was one shy of a limited boat. This is the fishing that we’re used to. We couldn’t even get all of our rods back out before we’d get another fish! We called it a night before getting that last fish and decided once again to sleep in for our last morning.

What a mistake that was……..His uncle left Sunday and his parents were done fishing, leaving mid-morning. It was only Jeff and I so we only needed 4 fish and after a night like Sunday night, we were feeling pretty confident that we finally figured out the key and we were going to be heading home early. I launched the boat around 7:30 and there were a couple of guides taking out. “already tired of spinning circles, huh?!” HAHAHAHAHAHAH Turns out the morning bite was on fire and they were done for the day. Oh boy. We’ve never got our gear in the water so fast…..But we were a bit too late.

We did get a fish on the first pass which we felt was a fantastic sign! I even got it tangled up with a bank angler and we ended up having to go all the way to shore to get our fish. This is where people end up hating Drano but usually, if you’re nice, people are nice back – and if they’re not nice, they get to listen to my version of what chipmunks sound like in the woods and hear a cute little lady wish very ill things upon them using provocative and rude language. Thankfully, these guys were awesome and were more than helpful so that I could land my fish. We quickly got out of their way and back on our side of the line thinking that we weren’t actually too late for the morning bite! We started back up where we left off and had ANOTHER bite before we’ve even made a complete pass. I lost my first fish this year…….I struggled to keep a fish on the surface because I wanted it in so badly and Jeff took a risky shot and stabbed my fish off. We learned that getting a fish first pass was bad luck. We went 1 for 6 that morning and we left around 1 PM with our pride in our almost empty fish bag.

Weekend 2:

We took another long weekend, although this time only 3 days. Fishing appears to have been great – according to social media – that week so we were excited to be back! We weren’t missing another morning bite but the boat ramp was a nightmare! I was there at 4 AM and parking farther away than when I got there at 7 on the weekends. Our friend had the CUTEST little puppy that we got to spend the weekend with. We ended up with a couple that day and got up even earlier Saturday for another day out! We have this superstition that sunscreen is the biggest fish repellant that could ever exist. I put some sunscreen on in the morning and wash my hands thoroughly, but I do not reapply throughout the day – I layer up.

Our friend met up with us a little bit later and it was apparent that he loaded up on the sunscreen in anticipation of the nice weather in the forecast. We had a couple that morning already, but that was the end of our bites for the day……….Thankfully everyone except me had already gotten at least 1 fish for the weekend – I lost mine. The next morning, again bright and early, I finally got my fish on a plug in the main lake. I used to have to be the one you’d keep an eye on. I’d take your rod right out of your hands if you weren’t doing a good a job. I’ve been really good the past 2 years and I even call fish out for other people and hand them the rod if they haven’t had a fish yet. Being that I lost my only opportunity this weekend, I ran quickly from the bow to grab the rod as soon as I saw it going off. I landed it! My skunk is over!

Weekend 3:

We headed back again but this time just for the weekend. We were fishing early in the morning this weekend. We didn’t too very well, losing a couple of fish the first day. We continued to watch what seemed like an episode of Opera….You get a fish, and you get a fish, you get a fish, one for you too!

There were 2 or 3 guide boats that seemed to be doing pretty well, but other than them, it was completely random and frustrating to say the least. Even our buddy Steve who is ALWAYS one of the top 5 boats was doing worse than us. What is going on this year? This is our place. This is the place that we’ve put hundreds of hours into. This is where we’ve grinded for years so that we could quickly adapt to the ever changing fish in this system. It didn’t seem to be paying off for anyone that has earned the right to have phenomenal days. When it’s fish for EVERYONE, it’s awesome. But man, when it’s not fish for us or the usual anglers, it’s as confusing as being 13 years old. We like to clean the “funk” off when fishing is slow because it’s proven to fix things time and time again at Drano Lake. We told Steve to go wash his boat and the next day, fish after fish after fish. I’ve never seem him so animated and excited. His skunk was over, but ours was not and our boat had been cleaned about 10 times that weekend.

We lost more than we landed and again, we headed back even more confused than the weekend before.

Weekend 4:

It was just Jeff and I for the holiday weekend and we were determined to end our season the right way. We’re used to limiting on our last day and leaving early…..that’s just how it works out. I couldn’t tell if I was starting to get allergies (which I’ve never had) or a cold so I loaded up on all the medicine I could think of and we headed down at 1 AM so that we could get the morning bite. We showed up around 6 AM which was a little bit too late but we saw a couple of fish on before the morning bite died. We mostly fished the main lake with the damn counts as low as they were and as the day went on, I determined my issues were not allergies. I quit the allergy medicine and loaded up on the cold meds to get myself through this weekend grind. We pulled over and took an afternoon nap because we really wanted to be focused for the evening bite. With it being just us, the opportunities aren’t really there to take “shifts” and let each other nap like we normally can.

We had already lost one fish that day and after we woke up, we thought we’d try float fishing since it wasn’t something we’d done for a few years. That proved to be just as slow as trolling and we’d rather troll so we switched it back up and got back on the motor. We hooked up again and surprise! Lost that one too.

The next day, we were at the launch in the dark and ready to fish right away. Like the weekend before, we watched as random boats hooked up and their fish seemed to cooperate. they stayed down, right below the boat and when it was time to net, they came up quickly to the net. Why can’t ours do that?! I struggled this year between fighting the fish on the surface which is never a good idea and pulling too hard because I want the fish in the net so darn bad. We found ourselves a biter and my instincts kicked in and grabbed the rod before Jeff could see what was happening. I let it take out 14 ft of line before I picked it up and fought it to the surface. In an effort to get it to go back down instead of thrash on the surface, I tried to drop my rod in the water but there were still 2 other rods out and they were in my way. Trying my hardest not to lose this fish, I lost it. That was our last bite at Drano Lake and shortly after, we called it a really day and were on the highway by 9:30. We were set to fish another day but between my cold and our bad landing ratio, plus only having 3 bites so far, we decided to finally give ourselves a rest and get some housework done.

This year was humbling to say the least. Never let yourself get too confident no matter how many years you do well. We never did figure out what we were doing wrong or what the other boats that normally kick ass were doing wrong either. We’ve never seen so many fish spread out between boats; it’s usually very apparent who knows how to catch them down there, and who is still on their first year or two down there. We tried EVERYTHING and nothing seemed to change the situation so we have nothing left to do but hope that next year is back to what we expect. We expect to grind and work and try new things. We expect to have slow days and maybe even no fish days. We don’t expect to have slow days when we’re seeing fish around. We definitely don’t expect to go home empty handed if we’ve seen more than 10 other fish caught that day. We need to not only make sure we can make the fish react again, but also how to improve our landing ratio. I personally went 7 for 13 this year. That’s a 54% landing ratio. I’m not okay with that. Some were beyond my control but there were at least 3 that were 100% my fault and I’m only okay if that number is 0%.

This is why we love Drano Lake. It does this to us. It makes us try. It makes us put all of our skills to use. It pushes us so far beyond our comfort zone, that we start thinking outside the box. And when it works, there’s no fishery that rewards like Drano. <3

Here’s a few more pics from our trip :)

A Blessed Start To The New Year

 

It’s our tradition to fish January 1st, no matter what the water conditions are. We actually had great conditions for Friday and headed out with our friend Trenton who is still a little green to the fishing sport.

We ended up getting to be first boat down the river and in the very first hole, I hooked up. You’d swear I never fought a fish in my life. Jeff loosened all the drags the night before (because it’s bad for the reels to always have the drag tightened) and we forgot to tighten them back up. It was a big huge steelhead mess as I tried to find the right tension while fighting a fish that had free reign over my line. I ended up losing that but we got all the rest of the drags set appropriately :)

After the third hole, we found a pod a fish. It took a bit of work pulling the boat back upstream after each fish, but we managed to go 2/3 out of that hole.

The rest of the day had the same landing ratio, but we had a great time. Jeff likes to get the boat limited, even if he doesn’t want to bring home any fish so he was a little frustrated that we ended up going 4/10 when there was 3 of us and we should have had all 6 hatchery fish by 9 AM. Trenton and I had a fantastic time and got quite a few laughs in despite our “sometimes grumpy captain that let a few swear words slip.”

We were headed back to the river with our friend Andrew Saturday morning and we noticed that it was a bit foggy and icy when we left the house. The morning was full of ironies which we realized after the next thing happened…..

We were headed on I5 south near Nisqually when out of nowhere, we began sliding. Jeff was driving, Andrew was front passenger, and I was behind the driver seat. What seemed like the next 30 seconds was probably only 4 seconds. We slid across 4 lanes on the freeway, hit the guardrail, and flipped a few times eventually landing upside down in the far right lane. The boat thankfully detached sometime between hitting the guardrail and flipping and ended up in front of the truck about 50 feet.

After we stopped moving, we all gave our noises indicating we were okay and got ourselves out of the truck and off the freeway immediately. Thankfully, a few others stopped to call 911 for us and ensure that we were in relatively good condition. Jeff took an ambulance ride for some minor back discomfort and some X-Rays just to be cautious. The drift boat, rods, tackle, waders, etc were all recovered and in perfect condition to our knowledge. The truck on the other hand, isn’t going to seeing anymore boat launches.

I shared on Facebook around 11 AM and the support and concern was overwhelming. Literally, overwhelming and I ended up turning my phone off so that I could try to get some rest. We are all still doing fine other than some bruises and soreness. I’ve experienced a lot of support from our fishing community but this was by far the most. There were several people in the morning that made posts regarding the accident just sending prayers and wishes to the unknown victims. A few friends drove by and recognized our truck and stopped to check on us although we had already left the scene for the hospital. The amount of prayers we received reinforced my feeling of love and support from our amazing industry and circle of friends that share our passion. It just goes to show that fishing is so much more than a fish.

It wasn’t the way we wanted to start our New Year, but we are all feeling blessed beyond words. The Man Upstairs had his angels looking out for us and I’m a great believer that everything that happens to us, was supposed to happen. There is no doubt that we were meant to be in that accident and walk away essentially unscathed. Who knows if I’ll ever find a reason or understand why, but perhaps it’s just to keep us grateful for our lives.

Cowlitz Lemonade

It seems as though I have let life get in the way of fishing again. And when I think about it like that, I tend to obviously think that life events take a precedence over fishing until I get to a burdened point in life and finally realize why. It’s not that fishing should remain more important that life events, but that fishing is my release for life’s lemons and I quickly forget how to make lemonade. Once I realize that the steps to making lemonade include fishing, my life seems to fall back into place.

I’ve gone out here and there over the past month, but my heart was heavy, fishing felt like a chore and I couldn’t take my mind off the things going on at home, and I wasn’t catching which probably contributed to the slump that I was in. I go through this process about 2 times a year and thankful to say that I’m over this one and I was anxious and eager to hit the river bright and early Saturday morning.

We’re in springer mode although the thought of actually putting fish in the boat is always at the top of the list so we hit the Cowlitz to target a bit of springers, but get some blood in the box by targeting steelhead as well. I got out of slump hooked up for about 5 seconds only to be left with a bare hook and a happy steelhead that got away. I did manage to land one which I was quite excited about!

Brothers Jerry and Jason also got into some nice ones!

Sunday I was feeling even better and even more excited. We headed to Blue Creek and first pass, Zack gets a fish on! Second pass, my turn! Well this was a good way to start the day! Shall we try 3 for 3 passes? We unfortunately weren’t so fortunate, but we ended up with 4 in just a couple of short hours before it slowed way down.

Jeff always runs the boat and anyone that knows me, knows how much I hate running the sled. I’m terrified, I’ll row a drift boat all day but the sled creates so much anxiety through my veins, that I cry. It’s expensive, powerful, fast and I don’t want to be the reason something happens to it. Well, Jeff hooked up and when it’s an average or small fish, he stays on the motor and fights the fish, but this time, it was a big, hot steelhead and he immediately ran to the front of boat which left me with the motor. As I try to remain calm, I’m delegating the others on the boat and trying my best to keep the boat around the fish and make it as easy as possible to get this fish in the net so Jeff can regain control of the boat.

Of course it’s not that easy. It was several minutes of shear torture (but no tears this time) as we drifted slowly towards the next corner which had a few ripples which means I might have to actually maneuver around them or lift the motor up. I’m warning Jeff that he better hurry up because I can’t do this and he just wants to patiently land this fish.

Finally! It’s in the net and I immediately go for his rod so he can get the motor. It was a very nice hen full of glorious eggs that will become the next batch of steelhead bait, but I needed a beer after that. It was entirely too much.

My life is still a little bit hectic, but much like running the boat, I’m getting better and better at the things that make me uncomfortable and are unexpected. Once I realize that the ripples aren’t as bad as they look and that I can do this, I am able to remember how to make lemonade :)

A Little bit of fishing before the rain

I didn’t have much time last week to blog, but last weekend we had a great day on Sunday with Jeff’s parents! I had to work on Saturday but Jeff and his buddies did pretty well for themselves. Jeff even got to shake hands with this beautiful hen and there was a couple more “first steelhead” for a few friends!

 

On Sunday I was determined to fish even though I had to head back into work that evening. We took Jeff’s parents out and right off the bat, we were bringing fish in the boat. We had a little confusion with how to reel (the spinning reels stay below the rod and if you reel towards yourself, the handle comes off) but after that was cleared up, we were fishing with perfection! Well, sort of :)

As usual, Jeff got the first fish in the boat. Then the second and decided his dad could reel that one in. Jeff must have passed on his good juju because then his dad was on fire! He hooked a total of 6 fish and we were off the river by noon!

This weekend the rain storm just started in and we had a big trip planned with Mike Z in Forks on Sunday, so we thought we’d mess around a little on Saturday. We headed out despite the rising rivers and pouring rain and while we only got one fish all day, it was another first! Our friend Jerry brought his brother out and he bared the rain and got his first steelhead! We headed out a little bit early because we started getting soggy and got rained out Sunday so we watched the Seahawks take another win home!