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Topics - LoletaEric

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1
Third father-son trip of the season yesterday.  Mark's been out with me a couple of times in the past, and this time he brought his son Jake up for a Cove day.  We spent the first half of the trip in thick fog, navigating in the current on smooth water.  The black rockfish were going off, as usual, and Jake got his first keeper lingcod.  Mark got about a five minute train ride from a thresher that never jumped - must've been a big one because I was paddling after my guy as the shark towed him at around 2.5 to 3 MPH.  Luckily it bit through the line and went on its way - we got everything back but the weight!  I've had them bite weights off before.

We managed to bag the only salmon of the day at the Cove - a puny little 21 incher that will be cherished for its every calorie of goodness.  Four shaker halibut and another little pile of rockies showed up on the inside, and high tide at the ramp had me opting to cut the fish up at the table, where I brought my own salt water rinse and ice cold beers for three.

It was a good day.

2
Schwegg hired me up last year for his inaugural Cove tour.  We had a slow to average day, with a decent stringer of rockfish harvested on a somewhat beefy mid-September swell.  It was a good time, but the big three species of salmon, halibut and lingcod were no-shows.  Schwegg did great in his tricked out Hobie PA14, with both the pedals and a Bixpy trolling motor, but I think that both he and I were feeling a little disappointment at the end of the day due to the lack of success in finding any of the bigger fish. 

This season he got on my calendar more than a month earlier - August, when the salmon bite should be stronger.  Some years back, August was also the time for "Thresher Days".  The thresher sharks show up at the Cove anywhere from May to October, but August has been peak season for them for the past several years.  They're powerful fish - bait eaters with small mouths and teeth but a whip of a tail that's as long as the rest of their body.  When one takes your bait, you usually either get some kind of train ride - short or long - or you feel kind of a frenetic tap-tap-tap mixed with some light tugging before reeling in your gear to find no hooks left on your leader.  The small, Chiclet-sized teeth of the thresher are very sharp, so the tapping and tugging was your leader sliding across a few teeth before cutting off.  My guests and I only occasionally hook threshers, and it's always while targeting other fish, like salmon and halibut.  I'd say that only about 5 to 10% of all thresher bites result in the train ride, and only a few of those result in landing the fish - usually after around an hour of fighting it.

So anyway, Thresher Days got its name when, in my early years of guiding, I landed thresher sharks for my clients for three straight seasons - always on either August 11th or 12th.  The bait-eaters had weighed in at 50 to 80 pounds or so, and I'd landed one weighing about 100 pounds myself the year before the streak of guest catches.  For a couple of seasons after the last thresher coming in on my trips, I joked that the early August trips were part of "Thresher Days".  I guess I actually marketed my trips in social media using that phrase, so it wasn't just a joke.  Although, my marketing IS basically a joke, so there's that!  😆

It's been a few years since I've even had Thresher Days come to mind, but last night, after a super long day with Schwegg, I realized that it was back!

When we spoke a week before our trip, Schwegg made it known that he really wanted a salmon, so it was a bit of a bummer to have to tell him that the bite's been pretty slow lately.  I could also see that the forecast called for the potential for wind, so I was almost ready to offer that he could cancel if he'd rather pursue other options.  The wind forecast could be part of my excuse to myself, and the crappy salmon bite could be the elephant in the room...

WTF?!  Who's putting these thoughts in my head?  I must be tired, and the Salmon Torture is getting to me.

Schwegg and I texted back and forth a few days later, and the forecast looked fine.  I told him that a few salmon had shown up recently and that we'd lost a nice one the day before.  He acknowledged that we'd get the weather and bite that we get, and he was fully committed to the trip.  I was stoked to stick to my guns and buck up for a strong day for his second annual outing with me, and I really wanted to find him a salmon.  Really wanting something in fishing can be a tough spot to put yourself in, but it's part of the game.

Our day came, and things looked good - no fog, ocean not rough but not as smooth as recent outings, wind present up on the ridge as I drove in, but typical summer morning stillness down on the water in the cove.  Positive news on the salmon front as well:  a few participants in Kayak Greg's Fish and Chill had scored one fish apiece the day before.

Schwegg rolled in just on time, and by a few minutes before 630AM we were heading offshore to give our best in fulfilling his salmon wish - and mine!  I'd not hooked one since July 3rd myself. 
We rounded the point to find sloppy seas that reflected the prior afternoon's offshore winds.  It wasn't a great surface for trolling, but it was safe and certainly not uncomfortable.  Schwegg and I got reacquainted as we fished, but our developing conversations were constantly interrupted by a pretty insane rockfish bite.  I learned that my guest had gone on to get into flyfishing since our last trip, and he'd been using his kayak on some great trout streams up around Shasta. 

When I take someone out for a second time, it's great because I know what to expect of their abilities and their gear.  That confidence and familiarity is enhanced when they show up reporting that they've gained significant experience on challenging waters.  I basically log data in my mind about what is available to each individual returning client and I, based on what I already know about them.  This allows for maximizing the potentials in our followup trip or trips, and I've noted many times over the years how often increased success and positive growth in skills and abilities are included in the tangible results of the trips.

So Schwegg and I were trolling the slop, feeding tray bait to the rockfish and lingcod, and all the while I was scanning the horizon for birds and waiting for some word of a salmon bite on the VHF.  Not much was happening, but it was nice out, and within an hour or so the sea surface mellowed.  Whether a salmon showed up or not, I was enjoying the rapport between us.  Schwegg got on a limit of lings to go with some nice rockfish, so I was pleased to have at least raised the bar from last year. 
I was in a good place - happy to have pushed through what has been a lot of fatigue lately, with a sore back, dried out and cut up hands, and that sour outlook on the salmon bite!  Schwegg was having fun too.  The stars were aligning in a way - progress was happening, and I felt relief and joy in my good fortune to be taking people on these adventures with unknown outcomes but such a myriad of possibilities.

The Salmon Gods smiled on me in my moment of healthy resignation.  K A B O O M !  I was on a hot one - only the 8th salmon I'd hooked this season, and it soon became my 7th one landed. 
Schwegg had kept trolling near me as I fought and landed my fish, and I was so stoked to be ending a streak of no chrome in my life, but I really wanted my guy to get one too.  I wouldn't have to wait for long.  Within a minute or two my second year guest on a salmon quest was getting his own chance to fight the king.  As I watched his rod pump and then saw and heard as line peeled off his reel when the fish sounded, I was thrilled.

He did everything right, and after a few runs Schwegg had his salmon tired out enough to lead it into my net.  We'd fulfilled his top objective on this trip, and the day was still young.

Within another 5 minutes I was on a second, and now I'm 8 landed out of 9 hooked this year - with none lost at the net since summer before last.  Who's counting though, right?!  This is part of how salmon fishing is pretty much a total mind-f***.  When you can't get one, you want one so badly, and when you do get one, you want another one so badly!  Salmon fishing becomes an obsession because it's so damn pleasing to challenge yourself in the pursuit and the fight and the net job, and to get the reward of capturing this superstar of the waters of the Eastern Pacific along arguably the most majestic coastline anywhere adds to the power and mystique of the experience. 

With 3 salmon under burlap, we trolled on, hoping to find Schwegg's limit fish, but the school we'd gotten on seemed to have passed along with the current and the bait they were chasing.  Before long we headed back toward the buoy with intentions of getting the fish ashore and iced, and then maybe we'd look around for a halibut closer to launch.  Several more rockfish came up, and then, while Schwegg was climbing up to his front hatch to retrieve a sandwich, his rod was going off in the holder.  He knew it, and we both laughed as it seemed to pump a bit, but we both thought it was surely another rockfish.  Schwegg sits back down, calmly retrieves the rod and easily reels in what isn't a rockfish at all, but a small Chinook.  It was probably right at 20" - it looked legal for retention.  But Schwegg didn't even want to net it.  I leadered it up, lifted the barbless hook from its lip, and it swam off strong.  My guy had gotten his limit, and now my guests have landed 3 this year. 

We're building stats down here at Loleta Eric's Guide Service!  Come on down for The Salmon Have Returned Days!

We made our way in to the ramp, shuffled some cooler contents and scored some fresh ice from up top, and our catch of 10 rockfish, 2 lingcod and 3 salmon was secured in Schwegg's camper shell.  It was time to go look for a halibut, and even though I was feeling it after 6 hours on the water, I knew I had some days off coming and had told Schwegg to start the day that I'd be game for overtime if the conditions allowed.  The salmon stoke was powering me for sure, so it was a no-brainer to at least do another couple of hours.

We re-launched and headed down the coast right before the 130 high tide, and a bunch of the yakkers from Greg's gathering were either heading in or fishing close by.  Right outside the moorings we saw Sky, and he'd continued his list of great catches for the season by landing about a 70 pound thresher shark.  We'd heard of a few being around, and we'd even lost a set of hooks earlier that was likely a thresher.  We congratulated Sky on his catch and continued on our way, and I still wasn't even remembering Thresher Days.

After an hour of trying for a halibut, missing some bites, landing another nice ling and a few rockfish as well as about a 4' smoothhound shark, Schwegg got a screamer on - he was on the train ride! 

The thresher jumped twice about 40 yards to the south, and memories of threshers past flooded my mind.  If the hooks stuck a bit longer, the odds of being able to fight this thing would be decent.  That's what happened, and Schwegg battled this 60 to 70 pound fish for about 45 minutes before it was tired.  I was trying to get a few photos and video clips, but even when one of these predators is tired you don't let your guard down around that tail - it could take an eye out or even worse.

With the fish tired enough to grab the gear and cut the leader, that's what we did.  If Schwegg had wanted it, I would have landed it and put in a whole bunch more overtime getting it to shore and butchering it up into about 40 pounds of very high quality meat, but I was glad when he expressed his wish to release it, not wanting any bad karma related to sharks.  Schwegg actually dives with sharks, so it was a great move to let this one go.

With the shark swimming off to recover, Schwegg's leader cut and the overtime meter pegging for the on the water part of the trip, we headed for the barn.  Got ashore, loaded the gear, jumped in the ocean for a refresh, and it was time to get to work at the Tailgate Fillet Station.

Processing three salmon, three lings and a limit of rockfish while enjoying a cold beer in the sunshine of the Cove is hard to beat - the tide was even going out!  Schwegg and I enjoyed some tunes along with great conversation as I processed the catch.  The rapport we'd developed during our time together, along with the day's amazing catches and releases, added up to the type of joy and satisfaction that I strive to achieve on these trips.  I can derive those feelings no matter what we catch, and I've had to lately!  But milking this day's triumphs at the TFS with Schwegg's cooler overflowing was Level 2 for sure.

Thresher Days is back, and Loleta Eric wants to get you on a train ride!   :smt003

3
What a year it's been at the Cove.  After last year's insanely thick and long-lasting anchovy occupation right in the harbor, where at times nearly everyone who tried walked off with fat sacks of big, blubbery king salmon fillets, this season the bait has been scarce, and the big kings that follow and forage on those bait fish have also been hard to find.  I started the year strong with 5 Chinook landed in May plus one for a guest, and then only one bagged in June.  In July I hooked one on the third, and then there was a two week break in the season - then things were going to blow wide open.  Based on recent history, I was very confident of it.  The past several weeks have proven me way wrong.

As I started lining out dates and filling this summer's schedule of guided trips at Shelter Cove, I was intent on not setting myself up for a marathon of long days with not enough rest to keep me at my best.  I'd put days off between trips as well as watching out for committing to too many days per month, and all of this would add up to having my best energy and focus available when late July and early August came along - these typically being the best times for both the presence of salmon and the calmest winds and seas.  By mid-Spring I had my schedule looking good, with plenty of returning clients looking to find big salmon as well as a host of new-to-the-Cove guests, many of whom also had their hearts set on landing an ocean chromer.  Why on Earth I thought that the ocean, the fish or my body would follow some kind of plan is beyond me!

Dan called me up last week looking to book a day with me, and somehow I'd left a little window in my book that corresponded perfectly to what he was hoping for.  How had I not booked up the 11th of August?  It was surrounded by other blank dates, so it should've been filled in - maybe I'd just figured I'd need a respite after the flurry of salmon madness that would surely unfold the last week of July and the first week of August.  Whatever led to it, I was stoked to be signing him up. 

Dan was coming from Reno, and I could feel his enthusiasm over the phone.  He's geared up with a super awesome platform - the Old Town Topwater Autopilot, and he also wanted to bring his downrigger plus a box full of salmon gear.  I advised that the salmon bite's been slow, and I encouraged him to skip the downrigger for our day, and I'd show him some simpler ways to target the different species available.  Salmon wasn't out of the question, by any means, but lately I've had to focus in on what's more likely to be caught.

When I read in our email correspondence that Dan's boat is the "Autopilot", I figured maybe it was equipped with a motor - no worries, I've taken out lots of folks with motors.  I'm not a huge fan of motors on kayaks, but I have no problem paddling all day next to them.  My main concern would be if I sense that someone is using a motor to do more than their body can handle, as this would pose a potential safety hazard and a liability that I'm not willing to accept.  I was also able to view Dan's Youtube channel showing him fishing up at Pyramid Lake, so I could easily surmise that this young man had the energy and abilities that are needed in order to be safe and ready on the open ocean, motor or not.

Our day arrived, and as I pulled down onto the launch I saw a single truck in the dark, right in the middle of the ramp.  I pulled past it to my regular spot along the breakwater, got out and asked in the direction of that lone rig, "Dan?"  It was him, and even though I'd arranged for us to meet at 6AM, he'd beat me to the ramp!  I'm not used to someone being 30 minutes early, but I definitely don't mind that level of eagerness.  We quickly got acquainted and set to work assembling our gear for the day.

By about 630 we were launched and headed out onto a beautiful ocean.  I took Dan through the usual training modules:  how to enter and exit the harbor, where NOT to go, reading the current, orienting using landmarks, redundant radios and navigation tools, and, of course, how we'd target the different species.  Dan was soaking it up and having a ball - he made sure I knew it throughout our session, and that had me really enjoying our time too. 

Feeding off of each other's positive energy, we were treated to a great bite.  Dan got a nice lingcod for his first ocean catch from the yak, and the rockfish were their usual voracious selves.  Of course I had us on the finest tray bait, and the chance for a salmon was there, but all the more common species were doing their thing, and even if some salmon were present, it seemed that it would be very hard to find one with all of those other biters taking out our every offering.  Remember:  it's a very good problem to have!

We made our way to the Whistle Buoy where I show people some of the nuances of locating different species, and there is also always a focus on taking in the views from out there.  I briefly give some facts and history about the King Range, as it towers above the Lost Coast - its first ridge rising to over 4000', making that the highest first ridge off the sea in the continental US.  And I talk about how, back in the day when there were lots of salmon, the powerboat fleet would typically troll outside the Whistle where they wouldn't catch their gear on the reef, and the thick schools of rockfish wouldn't steal all of their best bait.

I'd just pinned another quality anchovy on Dan's hooks after landing our umpteenth rockfish, and we were right next to each other when Dan's like, "OMG!  Something just took my bait before I even deployed it!"  "It's a blac...  NO!  It's a salmon!!"  What a hoot!  This has happened before, and it's almost always a coho - they're active and bold, smaller salmon that will sometimes put on quite a show.  We're not after coho, but where they show up, there could be a Chinook.  I quickly switched out our terminal gear to something more flashy, baited up the new leaders with more tray bait, and we trolled the area hoping to hook the right kind of salmon.  With the fishfinder screen showing basically nothing but marks near the surface, we trolled shallow.  It only took a minute before I had a hit, and as I retrieved my line another (or the same) coho followed the damaged anchovy right to my kayak, striking at it again very near me.  I told Dan what had happened, re-baited, and within another minute I had a coho right by my yak where I used my pliers to lift the single barbless hook from the corner of its mouth, freeing it to swim away.

We trolled a bit more, but there was still no giant bait ball or large "slashes" on the screen that would indicate a school of kings, so we moved on toward the inside, happy to have run into a salmon after over a month of no interaction with my main target.  Dan was stoked too - even though this was the wrong species, he knew that some potential was there for us to find a Chinook this day. 

We got back to the point, and our status remained the same:  rockfish, rockfish, rockfish, and Dan had also landed his limit of lingcod at this point.  The day was a success, and we were off to try to find a halibut along the beach for our last couple of hours on the water.  We wouldn't make it very far though.

Boom!  Dan's on a hot one.  As I cleared my gear and paddled toward my guy, I saw his rod pumping and his line was moving laterally away from him.  I told him this was another salmon, and it wasn't acting like a coho.  Dan acknowledged this as he held onto his rod and announced that this fish was fighting much differently than the others we'd been connecting with all morning.  I could see in Dan's arms and shoulders as well as his eyes that this fish wasn't giving him a chance to "play" it.  Instead, the presumed large king on the end of Dan's line was dominating the moment.  Salmon can do this - especially big salmon.  Dan's fish was shaking its head and body so much in an effort to get away from the hooks, that my guy could neither retrieve line nor get more purchase on a hookset.  Scenes like this leave fishermen feeling helpless and ineffective, as there's literally nothing that can be done to assure some kind of security in the moment.

Dan held the rod high, the fish continued to whip its body back and forth, and then it was over.  Dan reeled in his gear, minus his hooks. 

Losing a fish - especially a salmon, and especially when even getting bit has been a major challenge for over a month - is always disappointing.  Breaking one off multiplies that disappointment.  I'm a leader-checker.  I train people on it.  Whenever a fish bites or one is landed, or when the gear gets snagged or even touches something, the leader is checked.  That 25 pound Maxima must stretch in my hands, and if it breaks I tie on a new one.  This leader had been checked, and when I pulled on Dan's drag a few minutes later it was OK too - maybe a little tight, but a hooked fish could've easily stayed hooked and ran with the line.  This fish nullified any of the strategies and reasoning that I use in conducting myself as a proficient fisherman and guide.  This king salmon dominated the moment.

Dan was thrilled, and I was pretty stoked too.  This shit happens in fishing - you're ready, you do the right thing, you react well, your gear is sufficient, and a fish comes along that kicks your fucking ass.  It's one of the things that we love about the sport, even though it can leave us crying ourselves to sleep for months.

I tied on a new leader, reloaded with bait, and we hoped to find that fish again - or any salmon, of course, but all there were were those voracious rockfish.  The ones that we are so glad to have when nothing else is biting!

We eventually moved on to look for that nearshore halibut, and even though we caught several more rockies and lingcod, we didn't get in on the limited halibut party either.  No worries at all though - this was Dan's first foray into ocean fishing on his killer platform.  He'd take home about 25 pounds of the freshest fish on the planet, and he'd learned a ton about not just the fishing but the whole enchilada - safety, forecasts, the Cove, the species, and the draw that is having your ass handed to you by fish that earn the respect and capture the imaginations of so many manly men like us!

So, I've been trying to not wear myself out, and this tough salmon bite is making that even harder.  I want the trips to bear out so much success and joy, and that's happening - I'm very pleased with the season.  I paddled around all day - 8 hours this session - leading and following a 30-something on a kayak hotrod with a motor, and he wasn't too proud to admit that his fishing muscles were pretty beat after all that we caught for the day!

When I work myself this hard it can get a little weird.  I sit down to write about it, and a combination of passion, fatigue, angst and joy can lead me to amazing places...  Or sometimes I ramble on and maybe miss the mark regarding the messages I hope to send and the responses that I might've elicited with a different approach.  Whatever happens here though, I am deliberately engaging in a way that makes me feel good about my contributions to my community and the world at large.  Maybe this is what Thoreau was talking about.

Dan's family joined he and I at the Tailgate Fillet Station to end the day.  It was the usual scene where cold beer never tasted so good and joy was in the air all around us.  This culmination that occurs after every trip is also one of my designs and one of the ways that I deliberately shape our day.  My policy is that I will not accept payment until the trip is done and the fillets are on ice in the coolers of my guests.  By this time it's often the case that I've spent about 10 to 12 straight hours - or more - engaged with my people or person.  My aim is to show someone one of the most rewarding days of their life, and the tell comes right at the end.  A really nice tip is something that fills me with pride and joy, but having someone offer a heartfelt thank you and a clear and open statement of their satisfaction - that's the real reward.

A salmon showed up, and it got the best of us.  It was one of the greatest days of the summer so far.

4
Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Shelter Cove - 8/8/22
« on: August 15, 2022, 10:06:16 AM »
Annie signed her and her beau, Kent, up for a run through the Oldgrowth Corridor of the South Fork with me back in early June.  They had a blast, and Kent expressed interest in a followup trip to check out kayak fishing offshore at the Cove.  Yesterday was our day, and the forecast couldn't have been better.

I got down to the ramp at my usual time:  O'dark-thirty.  Setting up all of my gear plus full outfitting for my guest means that having a half hour to work alone is my quiet time, as I put together the pieces of our kits and make sure that the details are dialed in.  I love these peaceful moments of anticipation - especially as the dawn reveals a nearly perfect sea surface.

Kent was right on time.  I hooked him up with wetsuit, booties, paddle jacket and PFD, and he topped off the ensemble with sunscreen, hat, glasses and a snack.  After a brief run through the fishing equipment and a demonstration of the trolling technique, we were launched onto a gorgeous ocean along with the day's first powerboaters. 

Over the next couple of hours I went through the usual instruction and assistance routines, and the fish were biting well.  Kent brought great mojo, landing a big vermillion, a legal lingcod and countless black rockfish to start out the day.  In our pre-trip correspondence, Kent had confirmed that he'd never been seasick, and I thought that meant he'd been out on boats enough to know it.  Turns out he hadn't been on the ocean since around 1980!  This was a good day to test whether he was susceptible to the queeze or not - later he'd tell me that just for a moment he could feel something stirring, but it subsided and everything worked out just right.

After enjoying a steady bite out on the reef I suggested that we head in to the beach where we could enjoy fishing along the wild coastline with an eye on finding a halibut.  We stayed barbless (all summer!) in hopes of finding a salmon, but none were announced for the day - again.  No worries - we found some good stuff anyway, and what I saw building in Kent throughout the day was that he was having a blast.  He confided later in the session that the trip had been much better than he'd imagined that it would be.  This wasn't a surprise to me, as I often read in the reactions of those enquiring about such things that they're not quite buying what I'm selling.  That is to say, I try to give it straight when I describe these trips - with true details and genuine emotion - and it seems that people have a natural inclination to disregard some of what's reported, or to figure that embellishment or hyperbole are being used in order to elicit a response.  When I routinely get to see my guests experiencing the joy of the catching, in awe of the grandeur of the Lost Coast backdrop, appreciating the wildlife and the raw elements of the air and the water around us, it brings a smile to my face to think that even after I toil to pour my heart into these reports, that some don't quite fully realize that what I'm talking about is real and attainable.

Many years ago I discovered an incredible dynamic that exists between the experiences that I have and the reporting of those events.  I found that by using media - photos, videos and narratives - I could effectively bring those who viewed my work along for the adventures.  By expressing not just the details and the facts about what I'd seen and touched on my trip but also what I'd felt, I was making connections with others who share the desire to feel, and that turns out to be just about everyone.  I have often written and spoken about how I managed to develop somewhat of a system, where, because I was loving the sharing of the true details of my trip and also the genuine emotions that I was feeling, I was motivated to go find the next adventure and to capture the details as effectively as possible so that I could come back to this keyboard to share it with an audience who would top off my stoke and validate my whole scheme through their feedback.  That feedback is often an appreciation for learning or for beauty, but the best of it - the most heartfelt - is about emotion.  To put it as simply as I can, I discovered that I was thriving on the sharing and the inspiration, and that, in turn, was fueling my next round of adventure.  I was self-actualizing amazing experiences, and the ultimate irony was that I was doing it in order to feel the stoke coming back at me from whoever was reading, seeing, hearing and feeling what I had to offer.

I developed this M.O. on NCKA.

When Annie and Kent ran the river with me I saw the wonder and appreciation in their eyes as we traversed miles of the OG Corridor and visited two virgin creeks.  That experience pushed Kent to enquire and eventually sign up for the Cove trip.  Once I had him in the wetsuit, launched onto the ocean and running the gear the way I wanted him to, all I had to do was react to what I knew was coming.  The fish did much of the rest of the work!  These trips aren't just about fishing.  The catches add so much to the experience, but overall, the feelings that are elicited and the stoke that is attained are about the adventure as a whole.  If all of the elements come together - like what happened for Kent and I yesterday - my job as a guide is done. 

What I'm selling is about way more than a feeling or big sacks of fresh fish.  It's about what my people can take home with them in the form of inspiration in their lives.

We are all going to die.  It's the ultimate truth.  What we do while we're alive can counteract any and all negative connotations of that realization.  There's no one formula for achieving some level of contentedness, inspiration, love, motivation, altruism or soulfulness.  What there is, is opportunity - all around us - to have true details and genuine emotions carry us forward in life.  Everything else is just a place marker.

At the end of our day, Kent loaded me up with a nice tip on top of my fee.  I could feel how much the trip meant to him, and I think he knew very well that money doesn't motivate me to take people out any more than it does to share and to hope to inspire others.  I operate on a level that is designed to fulfill my heart - the money just allows me to develop my craft and to grow in my own goals and my vision for how I can do things to try to make the world a better place.

Peace out, NCKA.  Thank you for helping me find my place and do my thing.   :smt008

5
Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Shelter Cove - 8/6/22
« on: August 15, 2022, 09:50:27 AM »
Cove with Joe and John on Saturday.  My guys and I have done lots of trips together.  Over the years we've brought in salmon, halibut, big lingcod and rockfish, ten inch abs...  It's always a blast with these men.  Yesterday's ocean was really nice, allowing for a full day on smooth water, and high tide with cold beers at the Tailgate Fillet Station was all smiles, as usual.

I'm really grateful to have such good friends who support my business like these guys always have.  Pacing myself here - two first time Cove fishers and another returning guest this week.

6
Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Shelter Cove - 8/4/22
« on: August 15, 2022, 09:43:08 AM »
Jason did a two day trip with me last year.  We got multiple halibut, a nice Chinook, lingcod and rockfish.  This year he came up to do a one day, and it was a different Shelter Cove this time around.  The forecast looked very good, and the day started out living up to the prediction.  It was flat and glassy as we trolled the point to start the day.  All anyone was announcing were voracious black rockfish, and we were having the same experience as the rest of the fleet - it's a good problem to have, all in all.  We built up our stringers a bit with the higher quality models that came up, and the rest were gently released. 

Before long we trolled southwest toward the Whistle, hoping to find a salmon or at least more variety for our rockfish collections.  We fished out past the buoy for a while, and it felt like a day with the right water and a good enough forecast to let us go with the current down onto the top of the Tolo Bank - it only felt that way for so long though.

A soft breeze from the southeast had been present since mid morning, but that's normal for the Cove.  When there's north/NW blowing offshore, the area along shore south and east of Shelter Cove experiences kind of an eddy, with a light south or SE breeze being common, and the current usually reflects that flow as well.

This day felt no different than many other summer days.  We were enjoying a steady bite and finding a few more species when the breeze began to build up.  I heard captain Jarred over the VHF commenting on how the south wind was coming on strong where he was, a few miles to the south.  Meanwhile, whenever we'd hook a fish, I saw that we were drifting hard to the southwest - even against the breeze.  As the wind picked up even more and solid chop showed up, I told Jason we'd better keep our lines up and move to the inside.  Ten minutes later we were in a washing machine, and progress was slow.  Between the wind, the current and the heavy chop, we were only making about a mile an hour paddling steadily to the east toward the beach.  I figured that since there was some SE to the wind, the nearshore would be the best water to paddle on.  The problem would be getting there - especially if things escalated further.

I'd been checking in with Jason - he felt stable and had plenty of energy.  I told him I needed to ask him to paddle hard for the next 30 to 45 minutes so we could get inside the green buoy and hopefully to better water along the beach.  He buckled down and followed my lead as we worked hard for the next 45 minutes to get to safety.  A small commercial dory with a Cove local came by us in the slop at one point when we were almost to the green can - Lane.  He asked if we were good to get in, and I thanked him and told him we're good.  By the time we hit 30' of water near No-Pass the wind was letting up, but the slop made even beach fishing a mess for the next hour and more.  We scratched out one shaker halibut, a perch and missed a few bites, but the conditions weren't pleasant, and we were both pretty torched from the urgent paddling session to get inshore from that fluke, mid-morning, summer south wind storm.

We landed on the ramp in full sun with the usual crowds of locals and tourists doing their thing in and around the water.  As we put our gear on our trucks, you could hardly tell that there had just been a nasty windstorm offshore.  By the time we were done filleting our stack of rockfish, the ocean looked like a normal summer day again, and a group of paddleboarders from out of town SUP'd right out to the moorings in street clothes.  This is how the ocean works sometimes, and you have to be ready for it - or you don't go.

Jason and I finished up our second annual kayak fishing day at the Cove, and even though we'd faced an unexpected challenge with the weather and not found any keepers in the higher profile species, we were thankful for the experience.  A giant sack of rockfish fillets is sometimes the main ingredient in humble pie, it seems.

I'm looking forward to getting back to the Cove soon.

7
Roy came up from Coarsegold to fish the Cove with me for his first time.  Rockfish bite was on fire, but that was about it, with only a few short lingcod and one shaker halibut located for the day.  I was stoked to introduce another solid kayak angler to my favorite fishing grounds.

I'm pacing myself for a big month coming up and looking forward to opportunities that the ocean may provide for my guests and I.  Every day is different out there, and success is largely measured in degrees of joy and gratitude - no matter what's on the stringer to end the day.

8
Nick got ahold of me several weeks ago looking for a salmon date at the Cove.  As our day got closer I let him know that the forecast looked great, and it actually held for us!  Nick added in his buddy Hector, and the three of us burned it down for 10 hours on really nice water.  The salmon bite has been the shits, with only a few fish being caught by the entire fleet lately, and most of those miles from port.  We gave it our best and stayed barbless all day, hoping for a chromer to show for us, but it wasn't happening.  Luckily the rest of the species showed up - we compiled a stack of rockfish, released scores of blacks and other bait eaters as well as three shaker halibut, found one legal lingcod, and rounded out nice stringers with two respectable halibut around 29-30 inches.

After wrapping up 12 hours together with my guys, I got a text from an old friend from Nor Cal Kayak Anglers - Dylan Taube.  He encouraged me to show up in their camp where Kiet was celebrating his birthday with a week-long fishing party.  The killer food and good vibes were so outstanding.  I was able to spend a little time with several of my old buddies, get some top-notch grub and enjoy a little downtime before my drive home to clean gear and get to bed.  I had been pretty torched after the 530AM to 530PM fishing day, and I might've forgotten Kiet's earlier invitation to join in the party.  Really appreciate Dylan for reaching out to get me on an hour of fellowship and nourishment with the old clan.

If you've never checked out kayak fishing, I need to tell you that the community around this sport is amazing.  I've always put it like this:  kayak anglers are good friends to make, because they're people who have their shit together enough to be on their own boat!  It goes way beyond that. 

A big thank you to Nick for setting up a great trip with me, and thanks also to Hector who also brought a strong game and fantastic attitude.  Much love to Dylan and all of my old NCKA chums, and a heartfelt happy b-day to Kiet - one of our very best.

I'm a lucky guy for sure.   :smt001

9
Scott signed up for a two day trip with me back in the Spring.  He was interested in salmon but also just looking to get more experience fishing offshore on his Viking Kayaks "Profish Reload" - a really sharp boat from New Zealand.  Look this yak up - it's hot!

As our trip window approached I was of course following several forecast pages, and all of them showed light winds and low swells for our days - it was looking ideal.  This being the summer of the upside down, late to revise, moving-target forecast, I should've known that the predictions for calm water could be off base.  Literally, the day before our trip the call went from flat with no wind to messy with a breeze - Sunday would have leftover wind slop from previous days' blows further offshore, but Monday was to be better. 

So we meet up early Sunday morning at the launch.  As we got acquainted I saw right away that Scott was super pumped for our trip.  He had all the right gear - killer boat, fishfinder, nice rod/reel setups, safety gear, immersion wear, radio...  Combined with his attitude, Scott was basically decked out and looking like the ideal guest who was ready for some sweet water and a hot bite.  Remember though, that I focus on controlling whatever variables that I can, and the two that are beyond my influence are the weather and the catching.

When I'd arrived at 530AM and set up my own gear there was a high ceiling and a few miles of visibility, but by the time we launched the fog had moved up the coast and pretty quickly obscured the viz to where we could only see a couple hundred yards at best.  No problema - I know my way around and have plenty of redundant navigation tools.

We set out on the water, and I started showing Scott how we'd fish.  As is my custom, we headed SSE through the fog toward the Bell Buoy, and before long we turned onto the reef to troll near the point.  The slop coming in from the open ocean was a mess, but Scott was really solid on his Profish.  We got into some black rockfish pretty quickly, and Scott and I were stoked to be finding some early success.  I had a few friends around who'd headed a bit further west to Bread and Butter, and they were soon on the radio advising that the water was really bad out there, with no salmon biting and steep swells tossing them around.  They were soon heading inshore, and Scott and I made the same move.

We'd spend the next few hours in the calmer water along the beach east and southeast of the harbor, hoping for a salmon but also looking for a halibut or whatever would take our bait.  At one point my buddy Josiah appeared out of the fog bank with his partner Dennis right behind him.  Jo announced that Dennis had just had a Great White Shark following him around - didn't touch him, but it was close and curious.  They were throwing in the towel for the day.  I'd find out later that it was the second day in a row that the Landlord had followed Dennis' kayak, and later I'd learn that friends Chris and Max had seen the Taxman too.

I am constantly gauging my guest's comfort level and stability on the open water, potential for seasickness, and, sometimes, their reaction to the news of a Great White being in our general vicinity.  Scott seemed undeterred by this news from Josiah, so we wished them well and continued down the beach to the southeast. 

We were maybe a mile southeast of the launch when what had otherwise been a pretty quiet radio all day came alive with someone having seen a kayak up on the rocks at the point.  The reporting party then announced that he could see the kayaker on the rock too, with a flare burning and using his whistle to bring attention to his crisis.  Soon there were several people responding - a dory got up to the guy, but the kayaker was hypothermic and couldn't get to the boat.  Shelter Cove Fire Rescue had been called, and the USCG checked in too.  It was soon determined that SC Rescue could get him, and that's what went down within about 20 minutes of the original report.  We heard all of this as we fished the nearshore - too far down the coast to have responded.  Sounds like the guy got his kayak back - who knows about other gear, and he was OK after some warming I think. 

There have been a few different groups of kayaks that I've seen or heard of this summer who have paddled around the breakwater and right toward the point.  It's the worst place to go - out of anywhere offshore of the launch!  Waves break over there all the time, and I teach everyone that I take out how it's hazardous to paddle west of Pilot Rock.  As a guide and someone who takes safety and responsible boating very seriously, this incident and other recent moves by boaters who are obviously unfamiliar with the Cove definitely leave me shaking my head. 

The balance of day 1 yielded several more rockfish that were released, and one legal halibut that was highly cherished.  We missed some other bites that felt like the right ones, but in all it was a great first day.  I commended Scott on his comfort and smooth running on the nasty water outside the point, and I acknowledged that his gear was top notch - all centered around that beautiful kayak.  He was stoked to have caught some fish and learned a lot about Shelter Cove and some of the ways that I target the different species. 

Our day 1 session at the Tailgate Fillet Station was really laid back, because I'd brokered a deal to crash for the night on the couch of a buddy down there.  The three of us ended up doing dinner together, and then it was off to dreamland where I'd try to get some decent hours of rest - something that can be challenging for me while away from my own crib!

Up at 5 and back down to the ramp just before dawn, I could feel a south breeze coming off the water.  At dinner the night before we'd looked at the latest forecasts, and pages like NWS, Windy.com and Magic Seaweed had gone from "Hunky-Dory" to not-so-good in day.  When it got light I could see a corduroy surface on the water, as the south wind was affecting everything right into the harbor - it's only "Shelter" Cove in regards to the usual north and NW influences of the season.  Even with the nasty looking chop, the ocean looked fishable and safe enough for at least nearshore trolling.  The concern on water like that is if the current conditions escalate, you don't want to be far from being able to bail out at port, and you're always best to have safety downwind of your position.

Scott arrived, I had my bowl of cereal as he assembled his kit, and we were soon on the water to begin day 2.  Right outside the breakwater we were immediately cutting through small wind waves, and our troll to the south over the next hour or so was a constant exercise in swiveling the hips, bracing for occasional bow splashers, and generally being fixated on our own safety and ability to fish. 

I checked in with my guest often to make sure he was feeling safe and having fun.  Check and check.  Scott was loving it out there.  On every part of our trip he displayed enthusiasm and positivity that brought and kept a smile on my face.  With the tough fishing conditions on that up and down surface, the bites were hard to come by.  Scott had one anchovy bit in half trolling mid column over sand, and that gave us hope, as it was likely a halibut or salmon.  We worked the area, felt how the paddling was at different angles to the swell, and were just getting ready to settle in to making this our day when the wind came up.   

We made our way to the northwest and into the harbor, and conditions were bad.  There were 3 foot breaking wind waves over the wash rock just past the end of the breakwater.  The only other kayaks - locals Dave and Harold - bailed out at the same time that we did, and a few of the powerboats called it as well.  The bigger boats stayed out, but it was no place for a kayak for sure.

We visited with Dave and Harold before they rolled out of town, and I told Scott that I'd stay all day if necessary to give us a chance at relaunching into better conditions.  For the next hour and a half to two hours we had some snacks, went over some of the different tackle that I use, and we'd occasionally walk over to the inside end of the breakwater where we'd get blown in the face by the south wind as we looked out and saw whitecaps coming from the open ocean and right into the harbor.
By just before the 11:15AM high tide conditions started to improve.  The whitecaps were gone, and the surface was looking about like it was when we'd first launched that morning - not very good, but do-able.  We gave it just a bit longer, knowing that the wind would have to die before the surface showed the change a bit later.  Once I was happy with the improvement, we launched again with a new plan.  We'd head for the point to find whatever we could and hope for conditions to allow us out further and to stay longer.

Right away we were going over very short period wind waves that were coming uncomfortably close to dunking my bow.  I thought about turning us around, but Scott was doing fine - he was thriving even.  His kayak was cutting the swells, and he assured me that his comfort level was high and his stability felt great.

Once we got to the point the conditions continued to improve, but the fish were pissed - they don't like south swells!  "When the wind blows from the south, the fish close their mouth."  It's a well known fisherman's saying, and it's especially applicable to the Cove. 

Several of the powerboats that had stayed out through the worst of the mid-morning wind and slop were now trolling for salmon right outside our position a few hundred yards.  Nothing was happening for anyone on the salmon front, so I tried to dial us in to some rockfish and hopefully a lingcod or two.  Eventually we found some blacks, but the south breeze was still blowing and on top of a south current, so much of our time was spent fighting the current to stay on the school.

I was asking a lot of my guy.  Day 1 we'd started right out in the nasty slop off the point, in thick fog, with Great White sightings and a kayak rescue nearby, and now we'd had to re-launch after waiting out bad winds on what was supposed to be a nice forecast.  Through it all, Scott was upbeat and eager - always attentive to what I was showing or asking of him.  Now I found myself in a little bit of a Drill Sargent Mode - somewhat curtly telling my guest that we needed to step up the pace or we'd be going backward in the current.  Scott did what I asked, and as the conditions got better I could see that he was excelling in the challenge of the moment.

With a little pile of rockfish strung up and the conditions almost approaching "flat", I told my man that I thought we should head outside toward the Whistle Buoy.  The Red Can, as it's known by some, is about a mile and a half from launch, and lots of magic has happened out there over my years of fishing the Cove.  Scott was all about it. 

We trolled our way out, pointing our bows to the left of the buoy so as to counteract the strong current pushing us to its right, and about an hour later we were there.  By this time it was nice out, but we were still up against that current.  I was hoping to find a first lingcod for the two day trip, but it wasn't to be - the slow ling bite of 2022 continues.  Another hope was that a vermillion would show up, but alas, it was just black rockfish for us, and we are fortunate to have such problems.

After hours of battling the current and enjoying many fish played and a fair amount put away for filleting, we started trolling our way back to the harbor mid-afternoon.  The fog that had been up all day was now descending on the Cove again, and we got off the water just as it was enveloping the view.  Stretching our legs after getting up off the kayaks at launch, we were both pretty beat, but for any weariness we felt, the joy of having executed a successful day in the face of nature's challenges had us both holding onto well-earned grins.

After two days of tough fishing, a night on a buddy's couch, unpredictable forecasts and all the rest, putting the gear away in preparation for our final act felt really rewarding.  We'd fillet the fish, enjoy a cold beer, and wrap up the mission.  I could tell Scott was tired - so was I.  We'd paddled hard for a lot of hours, especially on day 2.

With Scott's cooler filled up with about 20 pounds of halibut and cod, we were coasting in to the finish line.  Scott expressed what a good time he'd had, and I apologized for how the conditions turned out and the fact that the salmon and lingcod weren't biting well.  He dismissed my sorries and assured me that he'd fulfilled his goals for the trip and then some.  "I caught so many fish!", he exclaimed, and my own perspective was, once again, wrenched back down to Earth by one of my guests who just had a really good time on our trip together.

10
Second Father-Son offshore trip in a row yesterday - hell yeah!

Keith contacted me a couple months back looking to book a day at the Cove for he and his son Ben.  It would be Ben's 30th b-day present.  We'd originally set up our day for Friday, July 1st, hoping to avoid the crowds that always descend on the Cove for the Fourth.  Wouldn't you know it though, the forecast didn't look great for Friday, so we switched things up to Sunday with its much nicer looking predicted wind and swells.

Enjoyed some family time Friday with my house full of college kid and recent graduates, and Saturday I had the place to myself as my crew headed to the cabin in Phillipsville for the night.  I got some chores done, prepped my gear, ate a good dinner and tried to get to bed as early as I could.  Getting up at 3AM with a very full day ahead of you is no joke, but the ability to get to sleep while it's still light out is no easy task either.  Ended up waking just after 2 o'clock, and I knew I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep before the alarm went off.  Lying there in comfort after only a bit more than 4 hours sleep, I tried to meditate on my plans and hopes for the day.

Soon I was up and executing my ritual activities for all trips:  ice in the coolers, food and bait loaded, move the car, lock the gate, go.  It's an hour and a half from Loleta to the Cove - about half of it on the 101 and the other half over the winding rural road that leads from Redway to the best kayak fishing port on the west coast.  I know all of it by heart.  I love all of it.  The driving presents another opportunity for meditation.  I'm not phased out at all - just rehearsing and visualizing; building my focus for how I want the day to go.

In fishing, you are engaged in an exercise that has so much to do with control.  Everything from the time you arrive at the launch, the quality of your bait, the readiness of your tackle and gear, your own fitness and your chosen locations and targets, to your demeanor and your chosen fishing partners are largely under your control.  The big things that aren't under your direct influence are the weather and the bite - with those, you must take what you can get.

I arrived at the ramp at 430AM, and my guests weren't due for another hour.  They'd bring their own kayaks and gear, so I was looking at an easy routine where I'd only have to assemble my own boat and seat and all the tackle, rods, bait and other tools for the day.  This hour in the dark with the ramp to myself is a familiar time and yet another opportunity for meditation.  Now it's about feeling a calm readiness in my preparations.  The kayak is unstrapped from the rack and laid in the sand first.  Then the seat, a half gallon of water, my net, my stringers, burlap, tackle, bait and tools - all set in the places where they go on every trip.  The electronics even got fired up before dawn, and I can't ever remember it being so dark out while I ate my bowl of cereal - Wheat Chex with about 100 wild blackberries has proven to be amazing fuel, BTW. 

In those moments of preparation my meditation is about the routine and how being ready and controlling every detail that I can will ensure that I am poised to achieve not just the best outcomes for my own day but also that of my guests - especially that of my guests.  As the light came and my gear lay ready on the launch ramp, I had nothing standing in my way but those things that I do not and cannot control.  Long ago I learned how working in the dark to prepare for going on the ocean can be intimidating and how that pressure and apprehension is alleviated as the landscape and the sea are illuminated by the dawn.  Later I found that ritualizing my gear assembly and being ready early were ways that I could accentuate that confidence that builds with the light of day. 

I don't show my tackle in these reports, and I don't discuss specific methods - even though I love sharing true details and genuine emotion, some things are proprietary to my way.  If you ever wanted to hear a guide secret, that last paragraph contains about the most valuable nugget I can offer, and I thank you for helping me create a space here where it feels so good to share it.

Keith and Ben arrived right on time.  We met, got my guide paperwork quickly completed, and they were set to work putting together their own kits for the day.  It didn't take them long, and we were launched along with the first boats.  The few miles of visibility that had been present on the water when I'd arrived was now obscured by a thick fog bank, but the ocean was calm and there was no wind at all.  I got my guys hooked up with our first trolling rigs, and we started making our way to the SSE toward the Bell.  With powerboaters whizzing past us in the fog like they were in a race to exercise their own control over how their days would go, my guys and I plotted along and went through another one of my rituals where I get to know my guests while at the same time assessing their comfort level on the open water and their abilities as well as their gear.  Thick fog can be a good thing - it makes people feel more like having a guide is a good idea, and it helps the guide to assess the true comfortability of the guests.  My guys were solid, and we were all lined up to achieve the success that we were after.

It wasn't long before Keith was on a fish.  I quickly cleared my line and got up to him as he brought a respectable lingcod up.  My net was out fast, and the fish was soon bled and stowed.  We were on the board.

We turned the corner at the point and found Domenic and Max trolling on their chosen tacks.  They were aiming at the same target as most everyone:  salmon, and while my guests had stated their desire to focus on rockfish and lingcod, they were in agreement that we should give the chrome pursuit some time to start the day.  Soon Max passed by us and announced he'd gotten one right off the bat.  Domenic too confirmed some good strikes, so our hopes were high to hook up as well.

Over the next hour or more we had dozens of hookups with mostly rockfish, and the stringer building got going strong - so did the bait depletion!  I'd told the guys that I had about 10 pounds of bait with me, and they'd laughed.  Now we were laughing about how it was looking like we'd need all of that due to the voracious bite going off.  I kept pinning nice choves and herring on my guys' hooks, and I couldn't even fish for a while because I was sprinting back and forth between Ben and Keith, bleeding fish and re-baiting hooks like a hyperactive waiter handing out beers at a crowded Happy Hour.

Eventually the bite cooled a bit, and I got a chove out behind me.  Boom!  I was on a pumper.  I got my crew's attention and pointed out the action on the rod.  This was a hot fish that wouldn't stop shaking its head.  At one point it swam right at me, setting up a familiar scene where I reel as fast as I can to take the slack out of the line.  The fish stopped about 25 feet from my yak, turned sideways, shook its whole body back and forth giving me hot flashes of chrome from a few feet below the surface, and it was gone.  That's how fast they can spit the hooks. 

The excitement was over, but hopes were high that someone in my trio would hookup again soon.  Here's where some control comes into the picture though.  My guests were going to be stoked to take home a salmon, but they'd already expressed their desire to target and retain the more sure thing catches in the bottom fish.  When it became apparent that getting a salmon would be contingent on trolling with a specific focus for likely the rest of the session, I diverted us out toward the red can where there should be a consistent bite and a variety of quality rockfish were more likely to find their way on to our stringers.  The control was about my own desire - the salmon obsession is no joke.

As we approached the Whistle Buoy in the fog using only my compass, we got stuck on a school of canary rockfish that had our bite going pretty much WFO for half an hour or so.  It was a blast, but the fish were short-biting, and my bait inventory was dwindling more than it should for a guide who's taken to carrying two coolers full of fin fish.  It was time to use strategies to preserve our bait while still keeping our day productive and our potentials maximized in terms of a salmon showing up.

Mid morning a buddy from Shasta area came on the radio and announced a Pacific halibut in pretty shallow water - an amazing catch considering that his son and he just boated one within the past two weeks!  Domenic and Max were also hooking up on more salmon inside of our position, but they're local experts and were working for them.  My group was right where we needed to be.  My new strategy had us still catching while making progress to the spot where I'd meter out the last of the herring in hopes of finding more lingcod.

With our rockfish stringers built up almost to limit-capacity, we were down to my last few herring.  I'd saved some anchovies for the last part of our session, but this would be our last best chance to find the big toothy predator that we were looking for.  I was near Ben when Keith got my attention from about 150 feet away.  I saw his rod bent, and there was no play in it that would indicate a rockfish.  It also didn't show much of a fight - it looked like Keith was reeling up a bag of potatoes.  A big bag.  This is how a hitch-hiker acts.

I paddled hard, but Keith got the sack of taters up to the top before I could get in position to wield my net.  I watched from 40 to 50 feet away as the father on this Father-Son trip bagged a grand-daddy blue ling that was latched onto a fat vermillion that probably went six pounds itself.  I always prefer to net the fish on my trips, but this was a great moment. 

I got up on Keith as he was subduing the ling with his legs since his net wasn't quite big enough for this fish - especially as it was holding onto the stout vermillion.  We worked together to get the big hitch-hiker secured, bled it and the verm and got them stowed away.  Before this big fish had come we'd already caught enough fish over enough hours for the day to be a success, and the lingcod topped our day off.

We made our way in over the next hour, and even though I'd saved some of the best choves for the end, we didn't end up needing them.  A few fish came as we passed the point on the way back to the launch, but the lingcod smiles were firmly set.  We were ready to exit the ocean, put away our gear and complete the final portion of the trip where we celebrate our day with cold beer at the Tailgate Fillet Station.

Backed my truck down to my yak, got most of my stuff put back in the places where it goes on every trip, and then I SUP'd out into the harbor on the big guide yak, washed the blood and brine off my deck and took a quick dip that does an amazing job of rejuvenating me for the fillet session.  My guests got their gear stowed and joined me at the tailgate, and we proceeded to cut and bag about 25 pounds of the freshest and most gratifying ling and rockfish for their cooler. 

That time with my guests at the end of the day at my tailgate - backed up to the ocean and viewing the entire Cove full of happy beach goers playing in front of us like some kind of Sports and Nature TV show - it is precious.  It is a time that reflects how, by using what skill I have to control whatever variables that I can, my guests and I were able to achieve success that is unique to every trip while also being part of those meditations that I employ in the dark back at home, along the road and alone at the ramp while the light is coming.

With firm and authentic handshakes and direct eye-to-eye expression, my guests and I finished our day and parted ways.  They thanked me for the trip, loaded me up with a bonus that I work very hard for, and they were rolling up the hill and out of the Cove.  This is another precious time when I'm able to exhale after being up since 2AM, driving, prepping and assembling, meeting, showing, catching, bleeding, stowing and celebrating, photographing, cutting, bagging and completing the mission.

In all of this - and in all of my attempts to analyze and understand it - I know that I lack control over something that I should actually have a hold over.  It's my salmon obsession.  I'm OK with that though, because I know that my desire is so strong in that area that it fuels everything else in my life.  It's OK to have that kind of force that may be out of your total control.  That's the paradox that can lead to a philosophy, and I'm running with it.

Keep your eyes on the prize, folks, and don't forget to really feel it.

11
I've taken a number of father-son teams out over the years.  I learned all about fishing, the environment and how to be a conscientious sportsman from my dad, and he's been gone for almost 15 years now.  Having the opportunity to take a father and son out is always a special time for me, and I try to make sure that it is for my guests too.

Omar contacted me several weeks ago, looking to book his third trip with me in the past year.  He was stoked to be getting his dad, Jose, out with us, and so was I.  As our day approached, I let Omar know that the forecast looked good.  With how bizarre this Spring's weather has been, it wasn't much of a surprise when a weird south wind picked up a few hours into our session.  What's more, the usual SE to NW current has returned and was doubling up with the breeze, so we spent most of our time battling pretty extreme drift that was taking us up the coast from the point.  Luckily the fish were biting pretty well, but whenever we'd hook up it meant that we'd have to work to get back to our desired spot on the reef.

After a few hours of hard work paddling against the treadmill of wind and seas, the fog came in to the point, the sea surface degraded further, and it was time to wrap up our mission along with most of the fleet.  We'd managed to bag several rockfish, a lingcod and a nice 13 pound Chinook, so the fishing was pretty good to us, considering the conditions.

It was really neat to watch the interaction between Omar and Jose, both on the water and back at the ramp.  My guests excelled in the challenging seas and did well to fish effectively while boating safely.  At the end of the day I asked Omar to let his dad know that he's now an official Offshore Badass and that I'd take him out anytime.  That might've induced the best simultaneous father-son smiles of the day.

Another chapter is in the books, and I'm looking forward to peak season coming up soon.  Thanks for following.

12
Kerry and Greg came up from Lakeport to fish with me for their third season running.  If you're seeing a theme in the past several posts, thanks for following!  I cherish the opportunity to meet people through my business, and building on those relationships with further correspondence and followup trips allows for the potential for great friendships to bloom.  Whether we hit it off due to similar outlooks on the world or just as a result of embracing a shared desire for fellowship and joy on our day together, the connections made with 'my people' are really the foundation of what I'm trying to accomplish as a guide.

Having knocked out two years in a row of really wonderful trips with these two where we managed to land salmon and halibut along with the rock species, I looked forward to seeing how we could top the past outings with maybe a limit of chrome or a bigger flatty.  Maybe more than looking forward to it, I actually imposed that level of expectation on myself to raise the bar, as it were.  There's nothing wrong with that, and I hope and fully expect my guests to have similar aspirations for our time together.

So our day was approaching, and I could see that the seemingly endless Spring winds of late were dominating the forecast.  10 to 20 knots with gusts to 30 from the north or NW has proven to be fishable most of the time at the Cove over the years, but last Saturday's trip with Evan had a little better forecast than that, and the wind had come on strong by noon.  Seeing that a Small Craft Advisory was now up for our day, with the call at 15 to 25 knot winds and all of the forecast pages indicating that a calm morning window looked brief and maybe even not in the cards, I felt like Kerry, Greg and I should consider postponing our annual fishing adventure. 

I called Greg and let him know that the forecast had bumped up to not looking so good.  He was understanding, but as we talked about potential dates later in the summer and all they have scheduled with family and work, it was sounding like we might not be able to get together this year.  Cancelling a trip isn't something that I enjoy or take lightly, but I never want to push the limits of safety or abuse the guest relationship by using a strategy of just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  I had to offer to forgo the trip due to the likely potential for unfishable weather.  I did suggest that we could float the South Fork of the Eel as an alternative, but K&G were all about the fishing opportunity - they were all about getting offshore at the Cove.

Other than fishing desire, there was a reservation at the Inn to consider too.  My guests got married in late 2019, and we did our first outing together in the Fall of 2020.  By the time we went out for our second trip together in the Summer of '21, Kerry and Greg still hadn't been able to have their delayed wedding reception due to covid.  So earlier this month they got that done with like 200 friends and family, and even though it was a no-gifts affair, some of their closest besties had sprung for their stay at The Tides Inn when we'd do our trip in 2022.  This reservation was already paid for, and by the time the forecast bumped up to looking shitty, it was too late to change their dates.

Early on Saturday Greg texted me with their decision:  "we're gonna roll the dice and go for it."

This was a gift to me, and I felt very fortunate to be receiving it.  I've not had to cancel or alter a late Spring/Summer date at the Cove many times at all over 9 seasons of guiding down there, so putting someone in a position of either having to take a hit by paying a cancellation fee or going on a Shelter Cove weekend without being able to go fishing as planned isn't something I'm accustomed to.  I'd given my best advisory and opened the door for doing something else for the day or nullifying the trip altogether - it was all I could do, and I wasn't thrilled about it.  Now though, Greg had basically taken some of that weight off of me by accepting the fact that we might only get an hour or two on the water before the wind came, or we might not fish at all.  Even if the morning air was calm, the call of 9' at 9 seconds meant that there'd likely be some nasty slop out front of the point, and that's where the fish have been biting lately.

The plan was set.  I got everything ready on Father's Day - my only day off for the week.  This was a fully outfitted trip - kayaks and gear, fishing equipment and partial immersion wear.  Sunday evening I considered whether we might pivot to Tuesday since both they and I had that open, but Tuesday's forecast looked just as marginal.  Monday was our day, and if I got down there with all the gear and the wind didn't let us on the water maybe I'd crash on a couch somewhere at the Cove and we'd go Tuesday.  The sanctity of the trip - any of my trips - means that much to me for sure, and the relationship with my guests hangs over all of it.  It may not be good to create and maintain that kind of pressure on oneself, but another way of looking at it is that it may be the best thing for you.  From a paradox can emerge a philosophy, I once said, late at night in a thread about who knows what on Nor Cal Kayak Anglers, many years ago.  I'd embrace that notion to help me through this - not just to get through it, but to find a way to triumph in my efforts to make good for my people.

325AM:  my alarm woke me from a deep sleep.  Last Summer my alarm barely ever went off - I'd wake up before it almost every time.  I was tired yesterday, and I knew part of it was due to worrying about how this trip wasn't fitting into my ideal setup.  I'd been given that gift though - the chance to take my guests out to try to accomplish something great on an ocean that might fight us and with wind that might defeat us.  They'd chosen to allow me to take them in less than ideal conditions, and I can only do that with people who have been out with me before.

As I came over Paradise Ridge there were a few fir boughs on the pavement, and the trees were waving in the darkness of just before 5AM, like they were there to keep me keenly aware of what I was headed for - it was all about my responsibility to do the right thing.  If the wind was on right from the get go, I'd cancel the trip and hang out with my guests for the day to try to help them have fun on their wedding-gifted stay at the Inn.  There'd be no business transaction - only an earnest attempt to keep the relationship good, so that we could aim for another date in the future and hope for the best in the meantime.

Once I saw the flag hanging limp at the SCVFD up on the hill above the launch, I knew that we'd at least be able to get on the water.  Now the concern would be finding a fish without pushing too far out front where the slop would be waiting to test us.

Kerry and Greg arrived at the ramp right on time at 545AM, and I had all the gear out and ready.  After a quick refresher on the fishing setups and the paddling platforms we were pushing off by just after 6 o'clock.  A charter boat soon followed - it was Jarred on his big Boston Whaler.  We greeted each other on the radio, and Jarred said he'd probably be staying local - the water was really snotty out front with that 9' @ 9 seconds coming through as an unorganized mess of peaks and occasional riffle-tops that aren't as bad as breaking waves but still bad enough.

I'd gotten the three of us hooked up on the best tray anchovies available, and I was just hoping that any species would bite our trolled offerings before having to venture out too far into the messy seas.  My primary concern though, as always, was whether my guests were comfortable on the kayaks.  Any seasickness would mean an immediate retreat back to the protection of the cove where we'd hope to find a halibut or any other biter in the nearshore area.  That prospect didn't seem likely or at all desirable though, with the 49 degree sea temp and nothing happening in that zone lately.

Kerry and Greg were great - very comfortable on the overstable kayaks that they'd paddled on two previous trips, and they weren't overly concerned about the nasty water.  This was another gift to me.  Like I said, I don't push the limits of safety, but fishable water is sometimes on the gnarly side - that's why I use the boats that I do.  The confidence that my guests had in both the equipment and my judgment in that moment is a guide reward that is crucial and highly valued - now we just needed to find some fish.

With barbless gear, high quality bait and strategies that I've learned and honed for decades, our hope was to find a salmon near the point.  The kings started strong at the Cove in May, but lately it's been slow for all who've been trying.  A few fish had been caught the day before, and the schools we dream about could arrive any day.  Greg got us on the board first - nice black rockfish to the yak.  We'd found a little school and managed to pick a few off.  I kept adjusting our position, checking to make sure my people were feeling safe and having fun, and over the course of the next couple of hours the ocean managed to go from shitty to surprisingly clean.  Magic Seaweed's call of winds below 10 knots at 9AM (and ONLY 9AM) panned out.  Our mid to late morning turned out to be gorgeous! 

The catching wasn't the best ever, but we managed to put up 4 lingcod and a pile of rockfish for my guests.  When the whitecaps started showing out past the Whistle I advised that the 'sheep' could be in on us in 10 minutes, or I've also seen them stay outside all day - even on marginal forecasts like this day's call.  We stayed near the point, scratched out a few more rockfish and eventually headed back to the inside where Jarred had announced a bunch of murres and pelicans outside the moorings as he'd landed to finish what had to be a rough half day for his guests.

We finished our session with an hour on the inside water trolling those high quality anchovies through baitballs with birds - all the signs that we want to see to find the salmon.  But even with the water warming up to 53-54 degrees by midday near shore, the shiny predators that we were looking for hadn't yet arrived in numbers. 

Content with the hours we'd spent and the fish on our stringers, we headed for the launch where we captured stringer display photos and cracked cold beers that were rewards for our efforts as well as celebrations of our good fortune for having been able to fish on the rough seas.

With the midday sun blazing and the north wind blocked by the point, the launch beach was alive with locals and a few tourists playing on the sand and in the water.  Kerry, Greg and I took some time to appreciate the moment before I sent them to the Inn to freshen up while I loaded all the gear back on my truck.  We met back up at the fillet table since I'd forgotten my tailgate board, and the next couple of hours were spent taking care of the fish, visiting with local friends and basking in the satisfaction of having pulled off a successful fishing day in the face of uncertainty.

Kerry and Greg are a joy to be around, and they're the type of people who are in good enough physical condition and have a strong thirst for adventure that allowed them to meet the challenges that came from the circumstances of our trip.  If something had gone wrong in the messy seas, we were equipped to deal with it, and if the fish didn't bite for us, I'm sure they were likely ready to handle that better than I would have!  The bottom line is that my guests, my people - my friends - had come into this trip with more than just readiness for challenge.  Through their attitudes, their posture and knowing their own abilities they'd displayed positivity and resilience that armed them to overcome obstacles or setbacks that we might have faced.  As a guide, I try to always be ready with those attributes, and I know that part of my guests' confidence and joy is based in my own display of those qualities.  We feed off of each other in that way.

In life we are given many choices about not just what to do when the forecast looks shitty but how to act and how to think when faced with adversity.  A great test of who we are and how our lives will play out lies in our reactions when the pressure is on.  It's all part of a balance that not only takes special energy to create and maintain, but it also gives special energy as we work toward finding our way and hopefully achieving our triumphs.  What I'm talking about is way more related to spirituality than it is to fishing, kayaking or enjoying beer in the midday sun with grins that grew from catching lingcod while riding rodeo swells. 

It was getting near the dinner hour when Kerry, Greg and I completed our business deal and said our goodbyes.  My guests and I were in a very good space - so exhilarated to have faced the challenge of the ocean for the hours that we wanted to and to have brought home some nice fish as our rewards.  It couldn't have mattered less that they weren't trophies. 

I do this for pay, and I hope to earn a fat tip too, but that will never mean that the friendships and the spiritual nature of these activities are any less genuine.  On the contrary - the transactional nature of these unique adventures has allowed me to focus very acutely on providing something much deeper and more valuable than what I thought that outdoor guiding would be like when I started this gig.

Thank you, Kerry and Greg, for choosing to roll the dice and to tap into the passion that makes meeting a challenge make us feel so alive.  I can't wait for our next trip together.

13
Evan came up from Gold Country to fish with me for the 3rd straight summer.  We've had some epic sessions, so the bar was set high going in to today's trip.  Us along with several other kayaks and powerboats went looking for salmon for the morning, but none were announced today.  A halibut has been hard to come by too, but we did talk to father and son friends Sky and Trevor who teamed up to land a 36 pound Pacific from their kayaks yesterday.  We put in some hours on the troll today and lingered on a few productive reef areas in the end to put together a nice stringer of rockfish.  The wind ushered us and the rest of the fleet off the water just after noon, but not before we'd completed a pass through the usual spots and found some fish to send home with Evan and his family.

I'm thankful to have abundant returning customers who trust me to provide a high quality fishing day along with an engaging interaction that is geared toward learning, appreciation and inspiration.

Thank you, Evan, for supporting my business and being a great friend.  Congrats on further salmon success at HMB and best of luck with your upcoming school year.   :smt001

14
James came up from Fort Bragg to fish the Cove with me on June 8th.  Several other kayaks and a handful of powerboats were also on the hunt for the number one target this time of year:  salmon.  I got James up to speed on a few techniques and different kinds of gear, but the fish didn't cooperate.  No kings were announced around the Cove, and the powerboats got only a few, south of us.  We had plenty of action with the rockfish and settled for a modest stringer holding a few quality blacks.

The Chinook will show up again soon, and I look forward to seeing a report from James later this summer where he cashes in on his investment in learning the salmon game.  Hooking, fighting and landing one of these amazing animals is a thrill that takes offshore angling to another level, and a big part of the challenge is just being equipped and ready to give your best to the pursuit.

Who will be the next to earn their Offshore Kayak Salmon Angling Expert patch from the Loleta Eric's Guide Service School of Trolling?  Maybe you.  (I don't really have patches, but it would be cool!   :smt005)

15
Eric from Reno engaged me for a Cove trip several weeks back.  As our date neared, he let me know that he might bring a friend - Pat.  A few days prior to the trip I called Eric and we moved from Sunday to Monday due to the storm over the weekend.  My go-to forecast pages all indicated that the weather would clear up by Sunday afternoon, and Monday was looking very good for both light winds and low swells.  On the same call, Eric confirmed that his fishing buddy Pat would indeed join us.  They'd travel on Sunday from Reno, land in Redway and stay in a hotel there, planning to drive over the King Range to meet me at the Cove at 530AM on Monday.  Sunday morning came, and Eric called right before they were to leave Nevada en route to the Cove.  I had just checked the latest forecast, and, as has periodically occurred just about every spring since the late 80's when I began following forecasts, they'd bumped up the call to a Small Craft Advisory with winds 15 to 25 knots and gusts to 35 accompanied by a messy 6' swell at 6 seconds.  I assured Eric that I've seen this happen many times, and that the Cove has come through with great water and light wind on many occasions when the forecast gets big and ugly like that from the north.  Eric took my word and trusted my professional judgment, and I was only a bit nervous about having my guys come from out of state when we could potentially be sidelined for the day by Mother Nature.

As I drove Shelter Cove road in the dark yesterday I watched for the trees up on Paradise Ridge to be swaying in the wind and for newly broken off fir boughs on the pavement - I've seen these things before on many such drives.  I was greatly encouraged when the air was still and the road was clean, and as I pulled down onto the launch ramp at 515 I could feel my eyes widen and my lips curl a bit at the sight of a smooth ocean as far as I could see.

When my guys arrived I had my gear all laid out and ready.  I helped them unload their gigantic kayaks, and they quickly and efficiently put together their kits and were ready to launch by about 630.  Both Eric and Pat have motors on their yaks - powered by lithium batteries the size of car batteries!  I've had a couple of guests over the years who had propulsion other than paddles or pedals, and I'm probably a bit biased against such things.  Kayaking is meant to be a people-powered pursuit, in my opinion, but I'm trying to be more tolerant!  My main concern is whether the boat and the person on board will be able to get back to the launch if conditions deteriorate or a gear issue arises.  What I could tell from watching them prep themselves for the day though was that these men were ready and eager.  They had proper immersion gear and appeared fit for the challenges that we might face on the water.  All systems were go.

We launched before any of the powerboats, and I was pretty amazed at how flat and glassy it was even as we made our way past the point and out front.  I'd had the guys keep it aimed toward the Bell Buoy before we turned on to the reef, and very soon I realized that the usual SE to NW current was upside down - we were being pushed toward the southeast this day.  Must've been the after effects of the storm; no worries - assessing the current is part of the checklist and the training on every trip.  Soon though I could see that this wasn't just an average current.  I had us aim toward an area north of the Whistle, and half an hour later it was apparent that we were only progressing straight toward it.  I kept the guys aware of how different this was from the usual, and we stayed with the plan.  The water just got better and better, and by the time we got to the red can my main concern was how we'd get our gear down in the current.  A half pound of lead can seem like a little bag of feathers when it's up against a rip like this, and sometimes the only way to get down is to go with the flow, which results in ending up way down current in no time flat.  If the wind came up from the northwest on top of the current, we would need to work to get out of a major tractor beam situation.

I had told Eric on the phone that with the two of them having motors I would be paddling around chasing them all day, and Eric had suggested that they could tow me anywhere that we wanted to go.  I scoffed at such a notion!  As we approached the Whistle though, I was sweating harder than usual just from battling the current in a 'power slide' toward the can even though I was aimed well north of it.  I was becoming more interested in that tow job now, but only to facilitate the fishing day - I am resolute in my dedication to not surpassing my own abilities in terms of situations on the water. 

So we drop gear, and I'm instructing the guys on how to work the tackle without letting it get caught up on itself in the current.  We'd drift-troll with the flow toward the southeast and then go back 'up the hill' to do it again.  Luckily the fish were biting, so any difficulties with conditions would be alleviated by getting some keepers on the stringers.  With the water somehow glassing off even more, my guys having a ball on their first kayak outing on the ocean, and the King Range looming above the northern horizon, ablaze in vibrant green shades of having just been watered by a few inches of rain, our time out there was awesome!

I was comfortably able to paddle against the current to get back up the hill for several drifts that we did, and I did take Eric up on a tow job here and there.  The guys put together nice stringers with several different species, and by midday the wind was still absent.  We were working our way inside the buoy aiming to gradually fish our way to the point when Captain Mitchell on the Sea Hawk hailed me on the VHF - "looks like the whitecaps are coming..."  I looked up and saw them a mile or more west of us, and I knew from years of fishing the Cove that the sheep could be on us in a matter of minutes, or they might stay out there.  You don't bet on that - you play it safe, especially with the current that the wind would be on top of if it came.

We trolled our way toward the point, stopping only briefly to string another couple of black rockfish and quickly re-bait, and by the time we entered the harbor the wind was just arriving off the point.  We landed at the sunny launch with an early afternoon crowd of beach goers building.  The tide was still low enough to have plenty of space to put the gear away, capture the traditional stringer display photos and set to work processing the catch at the Tailgate Fillet Station.  Ice cold beer combined with the fishing success and compounded by the relief felt by all of us regarding our good fortune with the morning conditions led to long-lasting afternoon smiles and a feeling of genuine contentment that hung in the air around us like a halo.  We'd been blessed with the gifts of the Cove, and our anticipation had metamorphosed into pure joy.

With the last of the boneless fillets of lingcod and rockfish Ziploc'd up and stowed in a cooler bound for Reno, my guests and I settled the day's deal, shook hands and parted ways.  Eric and Pat both expressed what a great time they'd had, and even though that's my goal and what I expect from every trip, I was especially glad on this day to have helped them achieve success while fishing in that current.

I've been working on myself and how hurt I am about some things in our country.  I don't want to be bitter and projecting any negativity.  I know that one of my special powers is rooted in how I am able to find the half-full part and to tap into a positive flow in my life.  I aim to continue to hone the skills that enable me to provide inspiration to others and to help bring as much joy as I can.  Guiding can be like therapy in a way, and I'm looking forward to another session soon.  Thanks for sitting in.

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