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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Summer During Winter

It continues to be an unusual winter steelhead season.  Much of the past couple months have been more like summer in my part of the world.  Water levels and weather have been unseasonably mild.  While I love the summer like weather and warmer water temps, I worry about what summer will bring with little to no snowpack in the mountains.  I vision low running streams in the summer and high fire danger.

I haven't "seriously" swung a fly for steelhead for the past couple weeks due to my Honda breaking down as I rounded the last corner before arriving at home from my last trip to the coast.  With a slipping transmission, it was time to grab a used replacement from a local wrecking yard and I ended up spending all of last weekend wrenching on my Honda.

I got out to the North Umpqua today with my friend Craig Coover as we ventured forth to seek our favorite prize.  We decided to fish some water less frequently used by the mob and enjoyed relative solitude in this beautiful place.

Of course with the mild weather, the water temperature was 48 degrees first thing in the morning and was up to 50 by noon.  This could only mean one thing - time to fish a skater for winter steel!!  In fact, I fished a skater with confidence all day.  For most, this would be insanity, but for me, I feel confident of being able to move even winter steelhead when water temps are 48 degrees and above (also noted in Bill McMillian's temperature date).  Some may ask:  "why fish a skater for winter steelhead?"  Instead, I ask "why not fish a skater for winter steelhead?"

I spent some time today fishing my newest color combo on my skater design - "Baby Blue".  I had found some baby blue Globrite floss at a local fly shop and loved the color, but had trouble putting a color blend together to make the floss pop just right.  I finally tried using an orange butt and pink cactus chenielle up front and I think I have a winner!

Unfortunately, I didn't raise a single steelhead today, but these mild conditions will keep me trying!

That seam fished a skater nicely

A beautiful day in a beautiful place

My latest skater - "Baby Blue"

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Fishing Car

When I moved back to Oregon in January 2009, I was faced with needing to find a cheap running car that I could use for commuting to work, and of course for the "occasional" trip to the river.  Driving my beloved 74' Bronco with it's big  V-8 engine full time was out of the question with it getting only 10-13 miles per gallon.  As luck would have it, I was able to find a decent 1990 Honda Accord with only 179,000 miles and some custom body damage on the rear quarter panel included for no extra charge.

Custom body work

As a avid home mechanic, I knew those Hondas were fiercely reliable and I was glad to have the title to this functional car.  As it turned out, the transmission began slipping after owning the car for a couple months so it was time to search the local boneyards for a used replacement.  One was quickly found and after a weekend's worth of work, my beater was back in action.  That was back when the car only had about 185,000 miles.

In 2009, I worked in the Albany DHS office so this required an hour commute to work and again at the end of each day as I commuted back home to Springfield.  Along with all the fanatical fishing I was doing, the miles piled on quickly on my little Honda.

My faithful Honda just kept going and going and has been very reliable for the most part.  There was one was one time when it failed me on the river when it would not start.  Luckily I had stopped to visit with my good friend Keith Tymchuck who was fishing one of our favorite runs.  After some quick troubleshooting on the car, I surmised that I must have a bad distributor.  Every car model has an "Achilles Heel" and the distributor is something on those older Hondas that can give out randomly and unexpectedly.

Keith was kind enough to stop his fishing to give me a ride back to town to check the local boneyard for parts.  Luckily, I saw a Honda engine sitting on the floor right when I arrived and was able to purchase the distributor for $60.  Keith drove me back to the river and I popped the new used distributor in it's place and my faithful chariot fired right up.

Another time, a year or so ago, I was happily driving down I-5 when my fuel pump suddenly gave out.  A friend helped me tow my car back to the house and after the back breaking fun of dropping the fuel tank to change out the fuel pump, my fishing car was back on the road.

Any 20+ year old vehicle will end up needing occasional repairs and this is to be expected, but my faithful Honda has overall, kept me stuck in the garage wrenching less often than any vehicle I've ever owned.  It has taken me to the river without fail more times than I can count.  There have been frequent local trips to the Willamette in summer and fall and also regular trips to the North Umpqua during the same time frame.  Winter brings regular trips to the coast for winter steelhead.  Along with my normal haunts, there have been trips to other rivers which have included the Siletz, John Day, Salmon, Santiams, Deschutes, and Siuslaw, among many others.

The result of a run in with a guardrail a couple months ago (headlight replaced)

Along the North Umpqua in July 2013

Frozen car and rods on the John Day in October 2013

Along the Siletz Gorge, August 2010
My faithful Honda has given me so much trouble free service that it has become part of who I am as a fisherman.  My local network of fishing acquaintances readily recognize my car and frequently know where I've been and what I've been up to, depending on where my fishing car is seen.  There have been many fond memories made with trips to rivers near and far in my trusty Honda.  For my friends who have been willing to brave the ride in my smelly, messy, fishing car, there have been many fun trips with great conversations about fishing, family, and life.

I'm not a high maintenance kind of guy, so my Honda, which looks like it has been the victim of many beatings and battles has been the perfect car for me.  It's so ugly and beat up, there's no point in washing it every week, or every year for that matter and it's lack of bling has definitely been a theft deterrent.  Knock on wood, no one has ever attempted to vandalize or break into my chariot because it already looks too run down and beat up for anyone to bother with.  No one would think the owner of such a beater would keep anything of value in it so there would no point going through the trouble of breaking in.

Needless to say, I absolutely love my humble Honda.  However, with 328,000 miles on the clock, I realize that I will either come up against needing an engine/transaxle replacement in the not so distant future, and/or having to consider looking for a suitable replacement car.  I figured since my Honda is a 1990 model, finding a 1992 or 1993 Honda would feel like having a new car!!  But heck, I've heard of folks who have gotten over 400,000 miles on the original engines in these Hondas, with regular oil changes and maintenence, so I may still have more life in this car!

I'm not sure why I'd get so attached to an inanimate object such as a beat up fishing car.  Guess I just have a hard time with change and the thought of my poor Honda going to the salvage yard is a sad thought.

Sometimes things come about which help one in deciding what needs to happen next in a given situation.  This was the case last friday.  I'd had a pleasant afternoon fishing a favorite river on the coast with mild conditions that just begged for fishing a skater the whole time.  This little river is two hours from my home with no cell service.  I've sometimes wondered what I'd do if I ever got stranded along the river with no one around.  I'd have to wait until the odd vehicle came by and then beg a ride from someone to an area where I could call for help.

Anyways, those "what if" thoughts had long since passed through my mind as I was rounding one of the last corners before arriving back at my home.  As I came through a corner, I noted the transmission shifted weird and realized it was due to slippage.  Uh oh.....  I gave a little gas and noted that the engine revved up without the corresponding increase in vehicle speed.  Bad news, my transaxle was slipping and was basically toast.  I was luckily able to make it home and I was so thankful my tranny didn't go out at the river, two hours away, with no cell service.  God was watching over me.

All this means is that it was time to search for another used transaxle to get my Honda back on the road.  I located one in a local wrecking yard for $300 yesterday and I'll have the pleasure of changing my transaxle out this coming Saturday.  I'm hoping to get this job done on Saturday, of course so I can fish on Sunday, but I know my fishing time on Sunday will come at the expense of bruised knuckles and sore arms and shoulders.  Such is the plight of the fly fisher who cannot afford to pay someone to do all their mechanical work.

Wendi finally told me that she thinks it's time to start looking for a new beater after I get my Honda running.  I'll be in the market for another Honda, probably mid to late 90's vintage.  When I someday get a newer car, folks won't recognize my vehicle for a while so I might be able to get away with flying under the radar when I'm out fishing, but I'd still miss my faithful Accord and I'm not sure if I'm ready to give her up!