Friday, December 4, 2009

Three Point and Shoot Cameras

500 different visitors were reading this blog each month during this summer. It's definitely not me they were here to look at, so I figure it had to be all the pictures of the beautiful alpine lakes I visted this year. That gives some meaning to the choice of camera I've been using.

I use point and shoot cameras for a simple reason; weight. My friend Vlad Karpinsky, the uber-alpine-lake-ninja, will lug around ten pounds of camera equipment when hiking for hours to alpine lakes, but I won't. Also, I am incredibly hard on electronic equipment since I tend to fall into rivers and lakes quite often, so that's another reason to avoid the $600 digital SLR cameras.

This year I used three different point and shoot cameras with varying results.

5 Megapixel Nikon Coolpix L10 ($150 in 2007)

10 Megapixel Fujifilm FinePix J20 ($120)

10 Megapixel Canon Powershot SD1200 IS ($180)

Taken with Nikon L10 - A good camera at a good price.

The Nikon is actually several years old and it has been a trooper. Its maximum resolution is 5M. Without getting too technical, I found the colors to be deep and pleasing. I've always been satisfied with the pictures that it takes. It has survived at least two complete submergings but it is starting to feel its age, and its 5-second delay between pictures seems like AGES. I would buy the Nikon L10 again. A good camera at a good price.

Fujifilm FinePix J20: Terrible Pictures!

The Fujifilm Finepix J20 had a pleasing set of chassis and the price was certainly right -- $120 for a 10 Megapixel camera. The camera seemed to be half the size the Nikon, was more responsive and had a faster in-between-picture metric. I liked everything about this camera... except I hated the pictures. They always looked washed out and the colors were muddy. I tried and tried messing with the settings but honestly 9 out of 10 pictures looked awful.

Canon Powershot SD1200 IS - Good little camera, I'd buy again!

I returned the FujiFilm and, after reading many online reviews, bought the Canon Powershot SD1200 IS. I was a little concerned about getting a camera with a built-in battery, but I ultimately couldn't resist the camera's compact size. I loved the Canon -- it took great pictures and was easy to work with. Sadly, perhaps because it was so small, I lost it a few months after the purchase. I'm hoping its still around the house somewhere, perhaps in the pocket of a jacket I haven't worn since summer.

iPhone 3Gs Image -- Eh, Its Okay

So until I find the Canon again, I use the Nikon or in a pinch, my iPhone 3Gs. The iPhone has no focus feature, has poor colors and is slow. But on the other hand, I always have it.

But when summer comes around again, I think those 500 visitors are going to want to see pictures taken from the Canon, so here's to hoping I find it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The 2009 Snoqualmie Pink Run


This year, like just about every other running body of water in the Northwest, the Snoqualmie had a fantastic run of Pink Salmon (also called Humpies). No one knows why the Pinks are doing so well when all the other colors are in decline, but we'll take it. By Indian Treaty, the Pinks are allowed to vote in Federal elections so they return every odd-numbered year to cast their house ballots.

In 2007, there were pinks in the Snoqualmie, but not so many that you could legally target them. In fact, prior to this year, to my knowledge, the Snoqualmie was closed to all Salmon fishing.

But all that has changed, baby. Here are the regs for salmon as of 11/16/2009.

SALMON Sept. 1-Dec. 31 Min. size 12". Daily limit 2. Release CHINOOK and PINK.

I interpret that to mean you can fish for any Salmon, but you must release Chinook (King) and Pink (Humpy). Thus, if you fished with a single barbless hook (as fly fishers usually do) and caught a fish over 12" you could keep it if it were a Silver (Coho), Chum (Dog, Green) or Sockeye (Red). If you can't tell them apart, I suggest you put them back anyway, because if you can't tell them apart, you can't tell when they are good to eat and when they are "overripe."

I myself have not been fishing since September. But Amy has been out on the river alot by herself. It is interesting in this day and age the reactions she gets: you would think, from people's expressions, that they were seeing a Giraffe standing in the river and not a woman. Amy says its quite annoying. People literally stopping, getting out of their cars and pointing at her.

On the other hand, several of the ladies from Church, upon finding out that Amy fishes by herself, have asked her to take them. Perhaps Amy could build a bridge between women and water in Snoqualmie.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Defeated at Cottonwood Lake

I passed by Cottonwood lake about a month ago and saw, in the water, that someone had gutted a fish and left its head in the water. The head looked like it would match a trout of 14-16" so I was interested to return.

Last Friday, I talked poor Amy into giving the Float Tube another try and joining me to re-visit Cottonwood Lake. She had only been on one other float-tubing adventure before and it had been a long slog and she didn't like it. I promised her that this would be an easy trip that was a sure-fire easy hike where nothing could go wrong.

I had no way of knowing it would end with sobbing. And vomit.

cottonwood lake
Sunny at Cottonwood Lake

Everything was going great. Easy drive to Lost Lake. Used the F-150 to get up that last little bit to get to the upper trailhead for Mirror Lake. 10 minute walk with tube and trailboat to Cottonwood. Got us inflated and in the water. No noise except birds every now and then.

Great weather -- probably 70 degrees out. Sunny. The lake was full of water though -- not down at all, and that should have been a clue for me. Small fish were rising, but we couldn't entice them. The lake was MUCH larger than I thought it was from shore. There's some kind of optical illusion going on there.

After about 2 hours, Amy announced she wasn't feeling well and she paddled herself to shore. When she got there she said she felt so sick. She had the worst headache of her life she thought she was going to throw up. I told her that she was probably just too cold from the water (she had been wearing thin, breathable summer waders) and that she should try to get warm.

She curled up in a ball, clutching her head and weeping (I have that effect on many women so I was not too surprised). I hurriedly packed our stuff and we started stumbling down the trail. We got about halfway down when she announced that she wanted to sit down but I wouldn't let her.

She then vomitted on my sandaled feet.

After that she slowly got better. Later, at home, she was back to normal, and decided against ever float-tubing again.

Here's what I think happened. The warm, sunny weather kept the top half of her nice and toasty and giving her the impression that she wasn't slowly freezing. But because she was wearing uninsulated waders in cold water (is Cottonwood spring-fed?) her core temperature slowly dropped until her body started taking drastic measures to keep her warm, including giving her the worst brain-freeze ever and removing all the blood from her stomach, causing her to get nauseous...

It goes without saying that I was skunked once again. These alpine lake fish are too smart for me. I was even tring 6x tippet. Maybe I need to go flourocarbon or something.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Okanogan Fishing Report

Ready for Trip
Ready to Go
Amy and I both love the Okanogan region; its that upper-right-hand quadrant of the state right up near Canada but not quite into Idaho. We've been looking forward to this trip all summer (we knew Casey would be in Disneyland with his Grandparents). I bought a new camera and Amy got all pretty (see above), though as she points out, by the end of the trip you can't tell the two of us apart.
Before leaving, we fished a local favorite in the tree farm, Calligan lake, just to warm up. Fishing was slow but we did manage to get a few cutthroat on dry flies. The fall sun looks golden on Amy's skin as she casts to some fish rising in a pocket.
Snake eating a fish
Snake Eating a Fish
The next day we drove as far as the Methow river before we had to stop and release the fishing pressure. The river was crawling with other fly-fishermen and the water was very low. In a strange coincidence, Amy found a snake eating a fish in the river. I think this is a bull snake and a sculpin. And, unlike earlier this summer the snake looked like he could complete the deal.
Steer on the road
The Okanogan countryside reminds us of Colorado where we both grew up. But the region is definitely remote -- a town of 1000 is a metropolis. Often on these trips we'd stay in sketchy 2-star roadside motels with bad beds and funny smells. This time we decided to try to stay in cabins and resorts. Some friends recommended Eden Valley Ranch as accomodations.
eden valley ranch
Staying in a cabin
Our cabin was cute and cozy -- a great wood burning stove kept the interior toasty against the cold air coming down from Canada. We watched movies on our laptops and surfed the net on the Ranch's wireless network -- all the comforts of home, really!
Eden Valley Ranch -- has wireless!
2 Laptops, 1 iPhone, 2 coffees, 3 Netflix = Party Time
If you are in the area, I HIGHLY recommend that you stay there -- Robin will take care of you and tell her that David Holmes sent you.
eden valley ranch,okanogan
Panorama from our door at Eden Valley Ranch
The Ranch is fairly close to the quirky little "town" of Chesaw, where our friends from church, Gordon and Kelly Kyle, have a cabin. They were nice enough to invite us up to their property (only one mile south of the Canadian border) and feed us lunch. It was so nice to see them.
Ready for Blue Lake
Blue Lake
If you are a fisherman, by now you are thinking ENOUGH ALREADY, how was the fishing? The lowlights were Sidley Lake, Big Twin, Blue Lake and Beth Lake, where we skunked. The weather at Sidley and Big Twin was cold and very windy so we were unable to fish them long. We pounded Blue Lake for 7 hours, searching for those big Lahontan trout, but, aside from Amy landing one small 12" juvenile, we left disappointed. We also stopped by several lakes which were WAY lower than they usually are even in October, rendering them unfishable. For example, both Conconully Lakes were ridiculously dry, though the other Blue Lake in the gorgeous Sinlahekin valley looked good.
okanogan,spectacle lake
Morning on Spectacle Lake
The only bright spot as far as fishing the Okanogan region was Spectacle Lake. Terri, who runs the Spectacle Lake Resort told us that it was slow at her side of the lake but good at the other side. We had good success, finding fish all over the west side the 300-acre lake. The Cuda 242 fish finder came in very, very handy, as the fish were definitely schooling at specific depths. Amy caught 13 fish there, and she lost a big one before we could get a good look at it.
Speaking of Spectacle Lake Resort, we did indeed stay there for a night. We literally almost blew ourselves up working the natural gas appliances to heat pork and beans that night for dinner. This is when Amy told me that maybe this trip had gotten a little too rustic for her. The resort also appeared to have wireless, but I forgot to ask for the WEP key.

Video of Amy catching a one-eyed-jack
Even though we fished identical equipment, Amy caught the last nine fish in row on Spectacle Lake. Literally the last three hours she caught fish after fish while I had nothing. Just goes to show you, a woman can outfish a man sometimes.
Rocky Ford
The Ford
On our way back home, Amy steered us to one of her favorite fishing spots, Rocky Ford. There, she continued putting on a clinic, catching four respectable trout on dries, including a monster fish that she swears was over two feet long. I was in the truck at the time having a soda and I didn't hear her yelling for the camera. So there is no picture of the fish of the trip and for that I am to blame.
Columbia River
Columbia River
The most exciting part of our trip was when we stopped at the Columbia river just south of I-90 to look out over the smooth, lake-like water. It was so enticing that we launched our little 12' craft and headed north toward the freeway, paralleling the shore. There was feeling of intense anticipation because there are all kinds of crazy beasts in that water, from 3' Chinook Salmon to 8' Sturgeon. Who knew what we'd catch????
northern pike minnow,columbia river
Columbia River Northern Pike Minnow
I caught three fish: all were Northern Pike Minnows. The water was alive with Salmon smolt and these ugly predators were probably gorging themselves on the poor little guys who were just trying to get 500 miles downstream to the ocean.
Demon Eye
Look closely for the Demon Eye
As we neared a large island in the river, we spooked a couple of big fish were were hanging out at the surface. Amy thought they must be salmon. We continued North and saw a few more. We cast to them and they spooked again. But this time when they swirled about 50 other swirls happened all around us! We were frantic to figure out what the fish were. Finally we got a good look at them -- they were carp and some of them looked to be 15-20lbs. We fished to them for hours but they were very shy, fleeing at our every approach. Though we didn't catch one, pursuing them was exhilirating.
Columbia River
Placid Columbia
It was a five day trip which is one of our longer trips. The extremes were freezing our buns off in Sidley Lake to getting sunburned in the Columbia River. For the most part, the weather was good -- too good. You see, we usually do this trip in October, but I was getting tired of the short days and cold weather during our trips. But now I realize that you have to have those short days and cold weather in order to get the excellent fishing. If you go too early, like we did, you get the nice weather, but often the trout will still be in summer mode. We'll see we what happens next year.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lower Twin Lake, Pacific Crest Trail

lower twin lake

Redemption. That's what this hike was about. Countless times I have promised Amy that a hike would be easy or short or flat only to have the hike turn out to be long, steep or brutal. When I asked her to go with Casey and I on Sunday on a hike to a lake she refused. I promised that this one would be easy and she still refused. I told her that I had changed and this one would be easy! She reluctantly agreed to try again.

lower twin lake

The trail to the Twin Lakes (the ones south of the Pass) satisfies all these requirements. It's close: 30 minutes from our house. It's easy: 1 mile to the lower lake with only about 200 feet elevation gain. Its pretty. The Lake has fish.

lower twin lake

After the short, easy hike, Amy brought out some apples, cheese and sandwiches for a picnic. I prepared the fishing gear. In this picture, Casey is hunting down frog egg sacks (which were abundant) and Amy is fishing in the background.

egg sack,alpine lake

Speaking of egg sacks, check out this one that Casey found. I told him not to play with them but he said he couldn't help it.

lower win lake,fly fishing,sevylor trail boat

Amy tried out the trail boat and did quite well at it. The lady can throw a line, even sitting down only an inch above the water. Casey and I spotted some fish and Amy paddled over and cast a brown hare's ear to the vicinity. She was talking to us about something and she "oh! oh!" and she had the fish on. It was surprisingly big cutthroat for such a small, shallow lake.

lower twin lake

While Amy kept fishing, Casey and I explored the forest around the lake. There are three nice campsites at the lake, though it probably gets pretty busy during the peak season, being on the Pacific Crest Trail and all. We came across this little log cabin nearby. A sign says private property.

lower twin lake

We crossed creeks on fallen logs and practiced bushwacking some more, coming back to the lake by a different route. In the picture above, check out the WALL OF GRAVEL that this winter's floods had pushed a quarter mile down to the lake.

lower twin lake

When we got home we all felt like we'd been on a much longer, harder adventure. Nice way to spend a fall afternoon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lower Loch Katrine, Alpine Lakes Wilderness

loch katrine
Lower Loch Katrine Panorama

There's something about lakes named after women. See the August report for Lake Laura. Well this month its Loch Katrine. If she's anything like her namesake, Katrine is dark and deep and um, full of fish! If you know who either lake was named for, please share.

loch katrine
Self Portrait at Trailhead

Loch Katrine has been on "my list" for a long time. Took a day-cation yesterday to cross it off. The Sevylor trail boat actually fit into one of the paniers on the bike so I was able to take the small day pack. Rode the first (flat) mile, then spent the next three hours pushing the bike up the logging road. Had to park it 1/2 mile from the lake where the road becomes a boot trail.

loch katrine
The Island in the Lake

Arrived at the lake at 1:30pm and took some pictures over lunch. Put my feet into the water. Napped on a log in the sun for a bit -- that was a long walk! A rainbow cruised under my log as I was inflating the boat. Good sign.

loch katrine
Fish Cliffs

The wind gently pushed the little trail boat across the lake, allowing me to hook fish wherever there was structure. The best fish were at the far end of the lake, hanging around these cliffs, for example.

rainbow trout,loch katrine

The fish were definitely hungry. Constant action on flies cast toward shore and slowly retrieved. Over the course of 3 hours, caught 11 rainbows mostly 10-11". Lost another dozen or more. Many seemed thin.

loch katrine
Fireweed on a log in the lake

Remember how the walk up took 3 hours? After I got back to my bike it took only 15 MINUTES to get back to the car. Sort of a surreal end to a nice day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Backpacking to Mirror Lake

mirror lake
Cool Kid at Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is a gem. It's an easy mile from the trailhead on a beautiful trail. As a result, it can get very, very busy, and as a rule you don't want to be there on a summer weekend. So I took another day-cation last week and Casey and I set out for the promised end-of-summer backpacking overnighter that I'd promised him.

mirror lake
Ready to go!

We took the truck so that we could drive the last half-mile, which is definitely for 4WD, high-clearance vehicles. Casey's pack was 10 pounds and mine, 32.

cottonwood lake
Cottonwood Lake, on the way

Cottonwood Lake is halfway to Mirror Lake. It has good fishing and a great campsite so of course it was difficult to explain to Casey that we were going to put those heavy back packs on and keep going. Casey spotted the head of what looks like a 14" trout in the water.


Arriving at Mirror Lake, we talked with this young man who had the unwashed, spacey look of the long-time-out backpacker. When asked where he had come from, he replied "Lake Tahoe." He was walking the amazing Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Canada to Mexico. His final destination? Snoqualmie pass. "Do you realize you are only 5 miles away!? You'll be there tonight! There's a pizza place right there!" I told him. It was inspiring to bump into this guy right at the tail end of his trip.

mirror lake
The shore of our campsite

Casey and I chose a nice corner campsite, tucked right up against the mountain. You can see the new $25 Wenzel Starlite solo tent (3 lbs) that my friend Vlad had recommended.

Wenzel Starlite Tent
Our Campsite

Dinner was Satarain's Red Beans and Rice. It took a long time to make, and but when it was done, we both wolfed it down. "This is best soup ever!" Casey said. He fell asleep quickly in the tent -- we didn't even have time to play cards -- and I lay awake for a long time, happy at how things had turned out so far.

mirror lake,pond
View down the adjacent valley

The following morning, we dressed and started a morning adventure: bushwack around the lake. It took an hour, but it was a manly way to get the heart pumping. After breakfast I inflated the trail boat and let Casey try to paddle it around. He's too small still, so I got in with him and we fished together for a while (unsuccessfully).


I let Casey swim ashore (in his lifejacket) to pursue a frog, while I kept fishing. An errant cast across my body caused my flyline to hook my sunglasses behind my ear and flip them into the water. I watched my prescription aviators sinking slowly in the crystal clear water and decided I was going to go get them. I could still see them in what looked to be five feet of water. I pulled off my hat, sandals and lanyard and slipped over the side of the boat. The water was FREEZING. I opened my eyes underwater and the true lake looked nothing like it did above! First, it wasn't five feet deep, it was ten. I looked forward and saw a whole underwater cathedral stretching out in front of me. I swam down, retrieved the glasses and shot back to the surface.

On our way out, a group of forty Russian teenagers was coming in. They were quite lively and friendly. To their credit, the teens had hiked the long way in (5 miles) with giant packs. They were a church group (Salvation something) and I hope they had a good time, but I'm so glad that we had chosen the previous, quiet night for our backpacking trip. Casey and I stopped in at the general store in Easton and ate cheeseburgers, while a visitor came in with a giant gerbil that was licking a lollipop.

I don't know if Casey will remember our first backpacking trip, but I think I always will. It was good trip and went off without a hitch.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Upper Canyon of the Yakima River

yakima river
Excited to get fishing

The gift that keeps on giving: we used the third of four "nephew-sitting-weekend" coupons that my lovely sister Patti gave me for Christmas. Casey got to spend the weekend in her busy house with all kinds of young people while Amy and I had a guided float down the Yakima River (from South Cle Elum to the Thorp Bridge).

Scott Wilson,Yakima River Guide
Scott Wilson, guide

Scott Wilson guided us in his driftboat. We only seem to get really good guides and Scott was no exception. Affable, knowledgable, knew every rock in the river, I swear. Summer time is "Hopper Time" on the Yakima. The only real bugs in the water are stoneflies and grasshoppers who are unluckly enough to fall into the water. As Scott drifted us down the river, we'd cast our foamy flies toward the banks where the trout sit waiting.

Yakima River,upper canyon
Summer of the Pink Flyrod

Amy raised fish after fish but for some reason they just didn't "stick" on her line. She probably had 30 trout rise to her fly and then either refuse or miss it. She's a trooper though and didn't complain.

yakima river,upper canyon
Come to papa

I switched to fishing a big streamer (a long weighted fly that looks like a fish) under a floating indicator and had better luck that way. First cast, missed a fish. Second cast, got this nice rainbow. Caught a few more like that one, though we didn't stop for pictures of those.

yakima river,northern pike minnow
Northern Pike Minnow

The streamer also caught two northern pike minnows, which are rough fish unworthy of a true angler's attention. Scott threw them back but not before one of them puked up a giant leech onto our cooler. Gee Thanks! BTW, last year I caught one that was about three times the size of the one in the picture on a fly smaller than dime.

Puked Leech

Scott was patient and put up with my steady stream of questions. Here are some things I learned from him:

  • A good mayfly imitation is the Purple Haze.
  • You can use Deer Hair for a mayfly tail (much easier than the Fibbets I use)
  • How to fish a streamer under an indicator (this never worked for me until now)
  • That there is such a thing as the Banana Superstition

yakima river
The River

Eighteen miles is a long day on the river. About halfway through we were all hot, tired and kinda grumpy. But we got a second wind and the day ended well. The Yakima is such a beautiful river. If you're looking for a trip, I think you can book Scott through the Yakima River Flyshop in Cle Elum.