Soundtrack: Dramamine – Modest Mouse
A few years ago my friend Jon Tapper went on a dory boat excursion with Jack Harrell from Pacific City Fly Fishing. From his reports, catching rockfish on the fly near Haystack rock sounded downright lovely. As such, an item was added to the fishy bucket list, and this past weekend I was able to check it off.
Captain John Harrell Checking out the Scene, First Light on Haystack Rock
A family reunion for my in-laws 50th anniversary had brought me out to PC, and my good friend Josh drove out from Bend on Sunday to hop in the PC Fly Fishing Dory for the day. Reports from the prior day of many coho brought to hand had us beyond stoked for the day.
The forecast was for 3′ -4′ swells, well within calm enough seas to go out. So at around 7am we were at the launch alongside Cape Kiwanda ready to get underway.
Jack, John and Gracie checking for any hidden rocks prior to launch
Our Captain for the day was John Harrell, Jack’s son. From the get-go, it was apparent that John has the scene dialed. I had to chuckle as he shook his head at some of the other folks struggling with gear and launching along the beach. John is knowledgable, laid back, and loves to fish. It was going to be a good day.
Josh and the Pacific Ocean
Launching from the beach through the surf was quite an experience. So different from slipping a drift boat into a river. Crashing through the waves made for an exciting start to the trip. Our first stop was to tend to crab pots. We quickly had our limit of dungeness in the boat and we set out to “Bucktail” for coho salmon.
My Thumb, and the tools of the trade for the day
Bucktailing involves stripping out around 60′ of line, 40 of which is a heavy sink tip with a short leader attached and trolling through water with salmon. Even with the heavy sink tip, you are only fishing in the top 4′ of the water, but the coho rise up in the wake of the boat and hammer the flies.
Side note – it was about at this time of the journey that the title of this post comes into play. Dramamine. I wish I would have taken some. Back to the story though.
Just about the time that my stomach was starting to say WTF??? there was a firm tug at the end of my line. Game On. Before I had a chance to freak out, I had muttered “FISH ON” and it was fish gone. After analyzing the line it was realized the salt water loop had failed and the fish broke off.
Always. Check. Your. Knots. Even ones tied for you by a guide. Captain Jack quickly pointed out his dad was at fault for that one. But I should have checked the knot too. Just like climbing: Check, Check, Triple Check. This was shitty, but it momentarily made me forget about Dramamine. Or the lack thereof.
John’s Office. Be Jealous.
That was the only tug of a coho for the day. We then set our sites on rockfish and ling cod. For this fishery a fish finder is utilized to locate the pods of fish, typically found near reefs or bait. You then cast out the same rig and let it sink to the appropriate depth and start to do small “strip-strip” pause… and then it is typically go time.
The rockfish don’t put up a huge fight, but a few of them were quite fun and large to play to the boat. But really, you are on the ocean, in a dory boat, catching fish on the fly. Freaking cool.
The Other side of Haystack Rock. Where much of the rockfish action happened.
The nice thing about hooking a rockfish for me was, I’d momentarily forget that I felt like blowing chips. That was nice. Dramamine.
Once we had found an active pod of fish – the competition to see who could catch the most was on. In the end we all limited right about the same time. And at that we headed back to the beach.
Coming back into the shore was hands down the most exciting part of the trip. Cresting waves in the dory, horn honking to alert beach goers to get the f**k out of the way and the engine revving us down the surf and up on to the beach. What a rush!!!
Back at the beach the gapers were everywhere. And it was fun to watch them come up to the boat, look into the boat box at a pile of crab and rockfish with wide eyes. We quickly loaded up and headed back to Jack’s shop where Captain John takes care of cleaning and filet duties along with boiling the crab. Wow. All the while Josh and I were treated to a cold beer and fresh from the oven brownies. Seriously.
Note the best-fed seagulls in Pacific City in the background. Captain Working…
While we are chilling
My in-laws were so happy for me to come back with my share of this
This was one of those days. Even with the queasy bile-filled swallows. One of those days I will never forget. A new experience with a good friend. Lots of action, and so much seafood in the freezer.
John and Jack are two of the nicest guys you will ever meet – and this guided outing felt way more like hanging out with good friends for the day. I can’t wait to do it again. But next time with Dramamine.