springers

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 :)

Springer Season Officially Started

We swapped out the anchor and moved on to the big river to see if we could find a springer or two. We started out trolling and didn’t see anything caught so at slack tide we switched to anchor fishing. It was pretty nasty weather so sitting is always difficult to do for a long time. It’s that point where we are so incredibly jealous of the boats with covers haha.

My rod got hit but didn’t stick and about an hour later, we were talking about our friend Jerry’s rod and how well his plug was working. You know, when that one plug is working so hard the rod holder starts absorbing the shake? Then, whack! Fish on his rod! Unfortunately, it was a native fish and was sent back on its way. Truly, unfortunate because the amount of work and money that gets put into these fish is purely for the table fare. We do eat some of salmon & steelhead, but springers are what we look forward to eating every year.

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I was supposed to have dinner with my best friend and Jeff just couldn’t leave the river knowing we were going home without springer for dinner so we ended up being 2 HOURS LATE. She surprised me when I met her with 4 of my other amazing friends, a table full of balloons, flowers, cards, & presents. They all waited hours for me to get back from fishing to surprise me with a celebration for passing my CPA exams. I decided that since I don’t have to study anymore, I could rally and go fishing again Sunday so we called it an early night and headed back out Sunday for round two really hoping to go home with dinner. We seemed to be just a few feet away all day and ended up going home with no fish.

I thought I was just very tired from being out the night before but turns out I ended up with a nasty cold. I only get sick once a year so hopefully this is it, but I was hoping to escape the germs this year! Assuming I’m not still sick, we’ll head back out this weekend and the following Sunday for more Columbia fun and cross our fingers that they extend the fishery.

But for now, we’re officially in springer season and couldn’t be more excited for our favorite fisheries!!

~Bry

Taking a Break

I took another exam on 5/26 so I got to enjoy a nice weekend with a few extra days off and NO STUDYING! Sara Ichtertz and I have been trying to coordinate and plan a trip together for a few months and we finally were able to make it happen last weekend after the Bonneville Damn fish counts improved again. And a bonus, we got to see Kari on the water!!! <3

I don’t generally take more than 1 day off after an exam because I have so many more to move on to, but given the circumstances, I took 4 days off and enjoyed every single minute. We headed down to meet up with Sara Friday night and were on the water bright and early Saturday. Fishing was pretty slow (okay, really slow) and we went 1/2 but I still had an amazing day. It was really hot, Andrew grilled us his infamous Teryaki Chicken, and I spent the day getting to learn about an amazing woman who’s passion flows on paper fluently. She writes for NW Sportsman Magazine and has a blog, For the Love of the Tug”.

Drano Lake is my favorite place to fish partly because of the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, partly because I love springers, and partly because it’s one of the most difficult, temperamental fisheries I’ve experienced. A challenge is always good and is what I love about fishing. We’ve been going down there for years experiencing some amazing fishing, and some really bad fishing. It’s not a place that you just decide to head to and expect to do well. In fact, chances are, you’ll just watch the handful of boats that have experienced the challenges do really well and you’ll just pray all day that God sends you a sign as to what you’re doing wrong.

But………Once you figure out what you were doing wrong and learn how important it is to be prepared and ready to get innovative, it’s one of the most rewarding fisheries. Sara got to experience a little bit of both. With a really tough first day, she watched as we tried different methods, depths, scents, ways to rig, speed, & how our minds began to calculate. The next day, she watched as we entered the Toilet Bowl and got 3 in 4 passes, and a couple of times, couldn’t even get all of our rods fishing again before we’d get a bite. She watched again as things slowed down, we thought we were dying of heat, and stuck it out all day long!

We headed back out for one more day which we intended on leaving by 11 AM and we were blessed to get 2/3 that morning before we packed up for our last Drano trip of 2017 and headed home.

 

Sara somehow captured these emotions and moments on camera exactly how I see them in my head. I am beyond blessed to have been able to meet her and have the stars align on this trip. I really never can capture exactly what Drano feels like and all of my favorite moments where I just want to sit in silence and embrace my life in that moment, but she provided me with a way to relive that feeling and that is key to the success in my happiness. Working full time and studying for these exams is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and I’ve sacrificed a lot of fishing trips to sit in my office and study so it’s vital that I reflect on my happiest times.

 

I cannot thank her enough for coming all the way up from southern Oregon and leaving her life for 3 days to sit in a boat with 3 complete strangers. She is ambitious, driven, and I’ve definitely stored those qualities from her to apply in my life. She’s extremely talented and is doing wonderful things to our fishing industry and I’m fortunate to have gotten a chance to bond with such a radiating person.

There truly are too many feelings for me to put into this blog post and I’m back on my studying schedule, so I hope you find as much beauty in some of her pictures as I do <3

Jeff’s Birthday Trip

Every year we make the 3 hour drive down to Drano Lake for Jeff’s birthday with his parents, best friend Herb, and his uncle Wes makes it down for at least 1 day. We’ve been doing this for several years and every year we get better and better. I’d be lying if I told everyone that Drano is like shooting fish in a barrel. Sure, if you have your stuff dialed in and it’s your lucky day, it can be. But that doesn’t come to just anyone and it requires a lot of work and if there’s ever a place where the tiny little details come into play, it’s Drano Lake.

Aside from the memories we create with Jeff’s family and all the friends we’ve made down there, Drano is my favorite fishery because of the people. There are so many friends that we’ve made and without the little tips that the locals and guides have thrown our way over the years, we wouldn’t have the opportunity at fish like we do.

Every year we go down there, something has changed. The fish want herring, then they want prawns spinning, then they want super baits but only under a rotator flasher, then they want coon shrimp, then they want a Leo flasher, it’s never fully dialed in. This year, we spent the first half of the day watching the few boats basically create blood baths while we struggled to get a bite. After half the day, we figured out a few things going on, made the changes, and put 3 fish in the boat. The one thing we didn’t have was those darn Leo flashers that everyone seemed to be using.

While we were cleaning our fish and boat at the end of the day, we shared the bank space with Bill Harris from Legendary Chrome Guide Service, David Loper with Takedown Guide Service, and Jacob Munden with Rising Son Adventures. We shared a few laughs as Jeff and I tried to pick their brains a bit. We got a few more tips and tricks and shared what worked, what didn’t, and how frustrating it is that things change so often. Jeff’s mom was playing the role of Mamma Dukes trying to scrounge up a Leo flasher for us. Bill Harris came to the rescue and gave us one of his even though no one in the area sells them and are darn near impossible to get last minute.

See why I love this place? In fact, one of our favorite guys down there, Steve Rich (aka pink hands), was the first person to conversate with us many, many years ago in a parking lot. He was just trying to throw a bone to a discouraged couple with parents trying to keep the mood light. We spent the rest of the weekend sharing jokes and laughs and the rest is history.

Although this is Jeff’s birthday, he knows that it’s a grind and quite expensive to go down there but it’s a place that will always challenge him and there’s not many other places we can limit the boat on upper river springers. He decided to get us all birthday presents! Now, Jeff doesn’t really do presents very well, but when he tries, he blows our socks off. We each got our own wrapped present even with our names on it and a personalized gift to go along with the main gift: A Drano Lake hoodie with our job role on the front:

Jeff: “Captain Ahab” – because he truly doesn’t know when to quit. Even when tears are shed. And don’t you dare undermine his authority!

Me: “The First Mate” with my favorite – a bottle of Crown Royal

His dad: “Captain Gordon” with a sailor hat – because after you put a few Budweiser’s in his dad, the captain takes over and he puts us on fish

His mom: “Mamma Dukes” with her favorite Guiness – because she was the neighborhood mom taking care of all the kids

Herb: “The Deckhand” with a bottle of Kraken – because we’ve made too many memories with that bottle and he quickly jumped on board our boat, learned the ropes, and is always making sure we’re fishing effectively and efficiently!

His uncle: “Bar Keep” with a bottle of Fireball which has many stories underneath it – because his role is to sit on the cooler at the front of the boat and ensure everyone is well hydrated

Steve: “The Pink Hand Joker” – because well, his hands are pink from April to August and he has enough jokes to keep you laughing all weekend.

The second day was a good one for us. A little rough in the morning, but it was slow for everyone. We kept adjusting things and trying to figure out what it was going to take to turn these fish on and around 11 AM, we finally started lighting into them. Captain Gordon put 9 fish in the boat that day, including a double! Herb was fighting his first fish of the trip and Jeff thought the other rod was snagged onto it so he basically just opened the bail and let Herb do his thing. After a couple of minutes, we realized the lines were nowhere near each other and Jeff reeled down to find his own fish on his rod. A DOUBLE! I netted Herb’s, he jumped on the motor, and we netted Jeff’s within 2 minutes. See what I mean when Captain Gordon gets on the motor?!

While we were getting ready to wrap up after a serious of tangles, ripped off leaders, and complete chaos, I see the rod next to me getting bit and I quietly put down my bird’s nest and moved a little bit closer. I’m pretty notorious for snatching fish from people, especially springers, but I’ve been good this year! I’ve even handed the rod over or walked right past a reel taking line because others haven’t had as many opportunities as me. But something in my gut told me this was mine and no one else on the boat was the wiser. I’m starring at the reel, not the rod, waiting for line to start peeling and Jeff notices me. He shouts to grab it but we’ve been here before and I told him that it wasn’t ready. He gives the motor a shot and I pick up the rod, fully loaded, ready for my fight. Out of no where, he tries to grab the rod right out of my hands like this ones his. He already caught his 2 that day and it was literally already in my hands. I wasn’t going down without a fight though. While the rod was being tugged and pulled by each of us before the first crank had been reeled, I tucked the butt of the rod under my arm and put my hands on the handle for leverage to bring the rod back down to my level. MINE! Sweet victory! I won!!! After a long battle, and a few net attempts with a 12′ rod and a 5’2″ little girl, we finally got this big boy safely in the net.

The last day was just Jeff, Herb, and I which was nice because it was a lot slower. We had to make our 3 hour drive home and work early Tuesday morning so we didn’t get to fish into the afternoon bite, but we left going 3/5 at 4 PM.

 

At the end of 3 days, we came home with 15 fish and a lifetime of memories. We learned a thing or two about a new flasher, we were reminded how important scents can be, and that even the tiniest detail like where you put the bait loop on the shrimp makes the difference between a bait that is fishing and a bait that is simply keeping the hooks warm. Drano 2017 is one for the books and I can’t wait for next year!