Oregon 2018 Part 3: How to Catch a Sturgeon on the Fly

The demise of our inflatable boat changed my fishing strategy. I had planned on using the boat to fish for carp on a number of backwaters and lakes connected to the Columbia River. Instead, I had to focus on places with shoreline access. Despite this turn of events, the fishing only got better and the fish only got bigger. I landed a couple of chunks and just missed one beast that was probably over thirty pounds.

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Oregon 2018 Part 2: Listing to Starboard


The view from Oregon to Washington

Ever since we started visiting the Columbia Gorge, Tara has wanted to paddle across the river from Oregon to Washington (visiting different states is a bit of an obsession for people from Hawaii). Last spring we packed up our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak and brought it to our cottage on the Columbia River. I was excited to be able to take it out on the water this summer but the boat was going on ten years old and it had not been inflated in over a year so I decided to start small and work up to an interstate adventure. Continue reading

Oregon 2018 Part 1: Mount Hood Country

We are back to our regular lives in Honolulu. Back to our cat, our garden, our jobs, and back to the salt – the waves, the tides and trade winds, bonefish and papio. A month away is a long time. Significant things happen in a month, and mundane things too, like old water heaters and broken gutters. Things are lost and gained, friends met or missed, places changed or discovered.

July was a pretty big adventure. A lot happened. I will try to put the best of it into words, especially the fishing, but the memories are already blurring a bit. I can’t help but be reminded of the timeless words of Norman Maclean: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” Or, perhaps, I am just getting older. Continue reading


There is a fellow living in Oregon who pretty much gave up steelhead and salmon to fly fish for big carp on the mighty Columbia River. His name is John Montana. John’s fishing has inspired me for years and I have long fantasized about catching one of those big Columbia River carp myself.

My chance came this past week when Tara and I, joined by my parents, spent a few days camping near Hood River. My goal was to land one carp weighing in the ‘teens. Of course, I could have dreamed bigger but as a fortune cookie once said to me: sow an expectation, reap a disappointment.

My pessimism proved warranted as I learned that the water level on the Columbia, as with much of the state, was unusually high. The abnormal conditions did not bode well for me.

 I spent the first afternoon with Tara, exploring the scenic banks of The Gorge, stopping here and there to look for carp. The weather was pleasant and the water was crystal clear and we found several promising spots and the few carp I spotted sunning themselves were as big as advertised. The next day the sky had gone grey and the air had turned much cooler. I tried fishing but spotting fish was nearly impossible until I was right on top of them and it was too late.
The following morning I woke up early and, leaving Tara and my parents to do some hiking, hit the water with determination – no matter how poor the conditions I would fish as hard as I could until I couldn’t fish any more! I scrambled and waded, dodged poison oak and fought with blackberry brambles. Most of the fish I saw disappeared before I could make a cast, and those that didn’t disappear immediately only hung around long enough to utterly reject my flies.
Sometime before lunch, tense and frustrated and wading through the muck, I had an epiphany. Actually, I slipped and fell, and then cursed as a quart of cold water made it’s way down the front of my waders, and then I had an epiphany. When I splashed down it was like a Chinese fire drill. Carp came swimming from every direction. Dozens of big fish milled about frantically, mocking my seriousness before returning to their hiding places among the weeds. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I packed up my gear, dumped the water out of my waders and spent a lovely afternoon in Hood River with Tara and my folks.

That evening I stepped into the local fly shop. The carp had rejected all of my standard flies, and some of my non-standard ones too and so I asked myself, “what would John Montana do?” The answer was obvious. For a long time the San Juan Worm was John Montana’s go-to carp fly so I grabbed a couple, bought a new leader and headed back to camp.
The next morning I returned to the scene of my epiphany, tied on a bright red SJ Worm and waded quietly into the shallows. I soon spotted a carp cruising towards me along the edge of the reeds. It was a perfect set-up. I crouched down and made my cast. Too short! I waited until the carp was right over my fly and then made a short strip. The fish slowed down and I made another short strip. One strip too many, the carp turned and swam quickly away.

Perhaps fifty feet farther I encountered the same situation with a second fish. This time my cast was right on. The carp hurried forward and I watched it’s lips flare to inhale the worm before I put tension on the line and set the hook.

The carp was determined to escape into the large weed beds near shore where my line would probably tangle and snap, but my determination to take it’s photo, along with a heavy leader and a tight drag, triumphed. I soon managed to tire the fish and beach it on the muddy shore. Without a scale I couldn’t be certain of it’s weight but I’m very pleased with my first Columbia River Carp.