Wednesday, July 22, 2009
A week and a half ago I mentioned to my friend, Guy, that we should plan an extreme camping/fishing trip. Taking nothing but the bare necessities, as far as food goes..just some rice and beans, and top ramen, the idea being that if we do not catch our own food we pretty much have a very bland diet for the trip. 4 days later Guy calls me and asks if I am still interested. Of course I said “yes, I am up to the challenge”
Just one week after first mentioning the idea, Guy and I were off to begin our adventure. Now when Guy called me to ask if I was still interested he told me that three other people wanted to come on this adventure, and it remained in the plans until the morning we were to all leave. The other three backed out, but Guy and I decided to go on without them.
So we packed up the bare essentials:
A tarp to put our sleeping bags on, some fishing tackle, two trout rods, a pound of rice, a pound of beans, six packages of top ramen, some spices for the fish we would surely catch, clothes, sleeping bags, and a raft that a friend loaned us for the trip.
Friday, July 17. 2009:
We were all to meet at Guy's house to prepare for the trip. Well, the other three guys backed out, so the adventure was left to Guy and myself. We packed up his rig, tied up loose ends and headed 25 miles up the Chetco River from Brookings, Oregon.
We seemed to have everything planned fairly well, myself with a backpack, and Guy with a duffle bag. So we arrive at Tolman ranch, once the home of the Tolman family, and the most remote cabins up the Chetco River. From there we began our trek up river, we were heading a couple miles upriver to a very deep hole that Guy and his buddy had found a couple weeks earlier.
As we were hiking and crossing the river several times I found that my backpack was entirely too top heavy. Guy's duffle bag was too heavy and the strap kept coming undone. We were both very weary after less than a mile of hiking. Finally the strap gave out on the duffle bag and we were left with no easy way to continue.
At this point we decided to blow up the small, one person raft and put our gear in it to pull upstream with us. We would stop occasionally and throw out a spinner to see if we could get a hit here and there. The second hole we stopped to fish on the way up ended with one of the reels breaking. Now we were down to one properly working trout rod and reel to feed us both for three days.
Undaunted we continued upstream, pulling the raft through rapids and swimming it upstream through deep holes. After a few hours we finally made it to the bottom of the very deep hole where the gorge came together to force all the water from the river into a very narrow deep fishing hole. It probably took a half hour for us to swim upstream through this gorge while pulling our raft. We were exhausted and found a nice sandy spot at the top end of the hole to lay our our tarp and make camp.
Well...Guy went to unpack his equipment and everything was soaked, not just damp, but totally drenched. All his clothes, sleeping bag, the whole nine yards. Luckily he had placed that food and paper for firestarting in plastic bags, so we had the essentials and my stuff did not get near as wet, being on top of his pack. So we layed out all his clothes and sleeping bag on a rock in the sun.
As I unpacked my backpack, the bottle of rum we brought along fell off the top and just barely rolled into a rock...TINK...and the rum was gone. It was about this time that I could have said anything derogatory about the trip and we would have both left our gear and gone home...lol. So we rolled a couple victory cigars in the broken rum bottle, just in case the trip might improve...
Upon completion of setting up camp and gathering some firewood, we headed upstream another mile or so. We had to hike along the river bank to try to sneak up on the fish. This proved exceedingly difficult for me...I just had surgery on my left eye on June 10, for glaucoma and cataracts, and the right eye is functionally blind. So my depth perception is completely gone. After around an hour of hiking we found a couple of fishing holes and tried our luck. The river bed was extremely rocky and we were getting hung up often, without a lot of gear with us on this little jaunt we would wade out into the river to attempt to free our gear, thus ruining the hole for fishing, but at least we could continue fishing up river.
I ended up catching about an 8 inch cutthroat trout that we threw back, then I hooked a 13 inch cuttie and got him in. Soon after this, we had lost all the gear we brought upstream with us and headed back with only the 13 incher for dinner, but...oh, I forgot to mention, I brought some venison for the first night, so we had rice and venison and the cutthroat trout was an appetizer. We were both so “shot out” that after dinner we had our victory cigars and went to bed under the stars.
Saturday July 18:
Guy woke up early and began fishing, I could not move, my entire body was twitterpated. Around 9am I was finally able to get up and get rummaging around. Guy had no luck fishing in the wee hours and our spirits just were not that high.
So upstream we went once again. When we finally reached the point we had made it to the night before I was done in, the trek was killing me, I had to go about 4 times slower than him because my vision would leave me wondering whether a drop in the trail was 6 inches or 2 feet, depth perception was totally amiss. We had no luck with fishing and it was getting very hot, around 95 degrees at that time and Guy wanted to continue upstream. I admit it, I gave up, told Guy I felt like I was going to hurt myself if I continued upstream with the strenuous climbing and crawling. So I hit the river and swam back to camp while he continued to fish.
I had been back at camp for a couple hours when a helicopter flew over, following the Chetco river gorge. They flew back over about 30 minutes later, had me dreaming because a chopper truly would have been the best way to get to such a remote location. Anyway, I had been sunning myself for a few hours and was burned from ankles to head, so I found some shade, built a small fire, and had some top ramen for lunch. About 45 minutes later I spotted Guy making his way downstream. As he got close he held up a stick with three trout hanging from it, the biggest was about 12 inches and the smallest about 10. So we had a nice trout lunch.
Guy was beat and layed out to relax, so I grabbed the rod and headed down to the deep hole to try my luck, after about an hour I hooked a nice cutthroat and carefully worked him in through the moss. He felt like a very nice fish with all the moss on my weights, and ended up being a fat 15 incher. So we were finally seeing the light and enjoying our trip. The fishing was good and we were eating well. I came back to camp with my trophy, which got Guy all excited, so he took off to fish the evening bite while I cleaned the fish and gathered firewood.
About an hour later Guy hooked a trophy of his own, he landed a 16 and a quarter inch cutthroat! We ate extremely well that night, each of us with a nice big trout to eat and some rice cooked in the campfire. By dark we were stuffed, fat and happy with our trip. We smoothed out the sand and rocks a bit more before hitting the sleeping bags, that first night was pretty lumpy.
I was still pretty excited from catching that 15 incher(biggest trout I have ever landed in a river) so I lay awake staring at the stars for awhile. When you are in such a remote location, removed from the lights of town, the stars are just so bright and fascinating. I could see 10 times more of them than in town, even though our town is very small. So I lay there watching the stars and thinking about the past and other times I have taken the time to actually look up and wonder. The fire slowly died down to a smolder as I drifted off to sleep.
Sunday July 19, 2009:
I was awakened by Guy yelling that he caught a monster, I looked up to see him fighting a lunker in to shore. It ended up being only 15 and a half inches, but was very fat, probably every bit of the weight of the trophy he caught the night before. So I took the rod and tried my luck for an hour while he got breakfast going. I failed to hook up with any fish, but was undaunted given the fact that we had a nice trout cooking on the fire.
We ate our fish and top ramen then started packing camp. Making sure to leave no trace that we had been there other than the fire ring we had built on our arrival. We were both quite nostalgic upon leaving that camp. Even though it was nothing but the bare essentials, it had been a very rewarding weekend and one we will talk about for the rest of our lives. We really did not want to leave.
So we packed camp and loaded our little raft, then swam back downstream to the truck. Of course the raft leaked again, but this time we put the tarp in the bottom of it and none of our gear got wet...lesson learned. We ate 7 trout for the weekend and caught them all on just one rod, imagine how sick of fish we would be if we had two rods!
It was a wonderful, rewarding weekend and one I will not soon, if ever, forget. If you ever get the chance to take a weekend for an extreme camping/fishing trip, I would certainly recommend it, but make sure you are in good company. The wrong teammate on this kind of trip could be disasterous!
Happy Camping to all!!!
Posted by Matthew Shaulis at 5:44 PM
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
As a commercial fisherman I can personally attest to the durability and effectiveness of Stormy Seas life jackets and vests.
While working on drag boats it is a common occurrence to need to do a wire walk out to the ends of the outriggers in order to grease the blocks. While this is not the most dangerous job in fishing it definitely leaves you very vulnerable to the sea's fury. Many a fisherman has been dunked, and even ripped from the boat by a rogue wave while doing an outrigger crawl. This is the reason that all deckhands are required to wear a Stormy Seas vest while crawling to the end of an outrigger at sea. With a Stormy Seas vest donned and a grease gun strapped over your shoulder you walk the cable that is dragging the net, and hold onto the outriggers until you reach the block, where you have to climb onto the end of the outrigger and hang off of it to grease the blocks. Of course the grease zerts are in the most awkward of places and you end up hanging upside down from the end of the outrigger like a monkey while the ocean is just feet below you while in a calm sea. If the sea is angry you will be lambasted by wave after wave before finalizing the task and making the precarious crawl back to the boat. Luckily we always have a crewman watching our back in case any mishap should occur, but keep in mind that with the drag net on the ocean bottom it can take the boat five minutes or more to make the turn to pick you up. This is where the Stormy Seas life vest comes in handy.
The Stormy Seas life vest comes with a CO2 cartridge, if necessary you just rip the string connected to the cartridge and it inflates the life vest in seconds. If for any reason the CO2 cartridge fails, there is a tube inside the Stormy Seas life vest that can be used to manually inflate the life vest. The Stormy Seas life vests are rather small, so it doesn't take long at all to manually blow it up and be somewhat buoyant while waiting for your boat to get back to pick you up. Hopefully you are in somewhat tepid waters and not in Alaska.
Stormy Seas life jackets and vests are often required on crab boats by many skippers. It is not an uncommon occurrence for a deckhand to fall overboard while setting or loading crab gear. Some of my best friends have had this happen, and they said it was one of the scariest experiences of their lives. Luckily for them they has an observant crew mate who saw them go over and was able to throw a buoy into their hand and pull them in immediately. There isn't much scarier than going overboard and having your extratuffs and rain gear filling with cold ocean water. So be sure to wear your Stormy Seas life vest when you know you will be in harms way and be safe out there.
Posted by Matthew Shaulis at 10:13 PM