..Thoughts on TFO Deer Creek Spey Rods

Discussion in 'Spey Clave' started by fullerfly, Nov 7, 2007.

  1. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

    Posts: 1,272
    Kailua Hawaii
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    I cannot believe that with all the steelhead freaks we have on this site, we didn't mention two of Deer Creeks's famous alumni. The legendary Zane Grey caught his first steelhead in Deer Creek in the 1900s. He made the pilgrimage from California (I believe it was 1917 and Buehler, the cat was already out of the bag then. You need to read more about the history of these fish.) Then in about 1932 (Guessing, my book collection is in Seattle) Roderick Haig Brown caught his first steelhead in Deer Creek on a Devonshire Minnow while working on a logging crew. He had heard of this creek in Canada and was clued in by Seattle anglers. Buehler, Deer Creek was famous by about 1925. As for Deer Creek being "good", I'm 39 and the Deer Creek slide happened in the 80s. It was already depressed by then anyways. Alec Jackson and Mike Kinney are two of the Deer creek river keepers (with our own Curt and Salmo and the boys). Alec and Curt (I assume Salmo was in the mix) literally saved those trouty little summer runs from extinction by beating the drum hard enough to get some public opinion swayed after this terrible slide. Curt (Smalma) would be a good source in info, he was on the front lines.) If you drop right below OSO Buehler, the remnants of the Elbow Hole (legendary run) Cabins are still there river right. My good friend Bob Headrick built his present house on his legendary dad Frank's (Hellcat, Haille Salaisse and others) cabin. The who's who of steelheading had cabins on that area of river. Wes Drain, Sandy Bacon, Frank Headrick, Walt Johnson, Enos Bradner and many others. I haven't been home for a while, but Steve Raymond still has a cabin there today. This fishery traditionally started right after July 4th. The Deer Creek fish were smallish and trouty. They were dry fly capable steelhead and loved for it. The NF itself was was first "fly only" fishery in America. The morning it opened for the first time (1940s?) as fly only Enos Bradner (the Silver Fox) raced up the highway in the dark. He was the sports editor of the Seattle Times. He got 2 count em two speeding tickets on the way as he tried to scoop everyone. Legend has it that Enos hooked and landed the first NF steelhead under the new fly only regs. It was fitting as he had a big say in getting it passed with members of the Washington Flyfishing Club. That group of legends often used Patricks Fly Shop as their rally point. Letcher Lambuth was often seen there with the other greats. Our own Les Johnson and Preston Singletary (and others that grace us with posts now and then) can tell you stories about the good old days on the Elbow, long before the NF "River Keeper" Mike Kinney was living in Oso in a communal home which in itself was before you were born. Tom Darling (Fin and Feather, original Avid Angler) used to tell me that he would race up to the Stilly in the summer in the 70s and count on hooking a summer run. The Picnic Table was his money maker. Now Buehler you are 25 years old. Your passion is great, and don't lose it. By to try to connect yourself to the salad days of the NF, especially the native Deer Creek fish is off by about 30 years minimum. They were already struggling mightly by the late 1970s. Its before my time and my next birthday is number 40. I have only landed 4 of what I think were Deer Creek fish in many years of trying. I've never really pounded it day after day, I actually like another river right up the road in summer.) I think naming these rods Deer Creek is a great thing. That area around Deer Creek is arguably the most legendary part of steelheading in the entire world as far as flyfishing goes. A toast to everyone who helped give us this heritage. As Washingtonians, we are indeed lucky to call this history our own. A special toast to those we call our own on this board who were a part of it! :beer2:Coach Duff
    Now Buehler, it's time to start learning about your heritage and quit spouting off like you've got a belt full of notches. If I'm too young to remember the good old days, how the hell can you? Les, Preston and Curt, and a bunch of the boys were fishing Deer Creek when I was pissing in my diapers. I was trying to fish what was left of the Deer Creek run when you were pissing in your diapers. It was already shot then. Get the picture?
  2. Nooksack Mac Active Member

    Posts: 1,945
    Bellingham, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +109 / 0
    If you park behind the fire station at Oso, you can walk the road to the river just below Deer Creek's mouth. From there down to the riprapped Elbow Hole, several hundred yards away, were the homes of the aforementioned luminaries. When I arrived here in 1971, I was new to steelhead fishing, but eager to learn. I happened to meet Ralph Wahl and other experts, and within a year or two we formed a fly fishing club in Bellingham. Ralph Wahl owned a long, narrow lot, covered with fine big trees from the highway to the river. There was a small clearing in the middle, where Ralph kept a moss-covered trailer, with an outhouse and picnic table. For many years, our club had an annual July outing there, where we could camp, picnic and kick back. Steve Raymond had a cabin slightly downstream. Dr. George Keough, inventor of the Keough Splice, had a cabin up toward Deer Creek.
  3. kimosabe Member

    Posts: 105
    Maine
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Coach, nice piece of history!!! thks!
  4. FT Active Member

    Posts: 1,242
    Burlington, WA
    Ratings: +102 / 0
    Coach,

    You also had my friends Bob Arnold (originator of SPADE, that wonderful low-water summer pattern) and Russ Miller fishing it regularly beginning in the 60's, which was also when Alec started fishing it since he didn't get here from New Zealand to the states until 1959 to earn an MS in Forestry at the UW. Alec even invited and took the late Ernie Schwiebert fishing on the NF Stilly, which Schwiebert wrote about.

    Also, let us not forget Syd Glasso, who started fishing it after he moved to Seattle, Wes Drain, Bob Taylor, Art Lingren, John Farrar, Harry Lemire, Dick Wentworth, Bob Strobel, etc. Heck, I can't even think of all the steelhead luminaries who have fished the NF Stilly over the years there were so many of them.

    You are absolutely right, the NF Stilly was well known for its Deer Creek and winter steelhead a long time ago. I honestly don't think it much of a stretch to say that it was the cradle of steelhead fly fishing in Washington state, much like the Rogue and NF Umqua being the same in Oregon.

    And for anyone who walks down to where the "Elbow Hole" used to be, it is nothing like the hallowed run (actually several different runs linked together) that it was. It is for all purposes gone, just like the "Pocket" above it that Walt Johnson loved so much. Heck the "big yellow rock" that Bob Arnold wrote about in his book STEELHEAD WATER is now nearly completely covered with gravel, sand, and clay and the run he wrote about started were it was located, is for all purposes gone, such is the dynamic nature of the NF Stilly. And I'd be surprised if many know were the "Spreader" was located or that the "Deer Creek Riffle" was actually a riffle.
  5. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

    Posts: 1,272
    Kailua Hawaii
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    The Spade. Enough said?;) Coach
    PS I said "and others". Thanks for throwing in some great one's names in others. Russ used to make some pretty good line systems. Probably still does. I was really focusing on the summmer cabin scene, but yes every luminary in steelheading flyfishing made their way over there. Thanks for throwing some sprinkles on the ice cream. It really is one of the centerpieces of flyfishing for steelhead history. Cheers FT :beer2: Coach
  6. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,470
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,609 / 0
    Luminaries is a nice touch, I guess. It depends on your point of reference. Most of those names belong to anglers I knew on the Stilly and elsewhere. No one thought of anyone else as a luminary. Certainly some had carried the water, like Enos Bradner and Letcher Lambuth, and others, to have WDG designate the NF as fly only in the summer season, either 1940 or 41.

    When the DeForest Creek slide hit Deer Ck in the mid 80s, Alec led a group of anglers and conservationists to deal with DNR and Scott Paper to try and reverse the damage. DNR spent some serious money, under the threat of a damages law suit I think, to try to contain the slide. However, time ended up doing more to stabilize it than DNR's contribution I believe. Smalma was much closer to this issue and may have a different view.

    Steve Raymond's cabin is the one that had belonged to Bradner. I can't remember the names of the guys who bought Walt Johnson's or Wes Drain's. I wonder who has the lot that Al Knudsen had his camp on. Al never built a cabin, as he was an early day steelhead bum and never accumulated much wealth.

    As long as stories are being told, Tom Darling is a dear old friend who worked first at Patrick's Fly Shop, then had his own shop. He loved trout fishing and talking about fishing, even steelhead fishing. But he never steelhead fished much; he just loved the idea of it. I think he was partial to the better results he had trout fishing.

    I was with Alec the first time he ever fished the Stilly, and it wasn't in the 60s. 1973 in fact. The last few times I've seen Alec, he suggests a longer association with steelheading than I can document. Scientists always get in the way of the fun. I don't remember Alec taking Ernie Schwiebert to the NF, but Wes Drain and Ralph Wahl were there, Ralph took the photos and Wes played guide. And then Schwiebert called Wes by another name in the article he wrote to chronicle the event. Ernie caught a nice female steelhead on a 9 or 9 1/2' fiberglass 6 wt rod out of Skier's that day. I wasn't there, but I heard about it from Wes.

    If John Farrar is a luminary, then by god I'm a teacher of luminaries. When I took John to the NF the first time, he was a John Denver hippie look-alike from Rapid City, SD who was blessed with enough enthusiasm for 20 fishermen. He was the first person I ever met who "studied" steelheading like it was college coursework.

    Strobel was the original Blue Heron, who'd take Joanne out dancing Friday night to get a kitchen pass and be at Fortson at daylight on Saturday. He'd still be standing in lower Fortson, like a heron stalking its prey, when the sun was going down that evening. I asked him if he ever got out of the water to go take a leak. He said no, but he'd added a couple inches to his tallywhacker by just stretching it up over the top of his waders . . .

    Truly the NF was the cradle of WA state steelhead flyfishing. As is so often the case, the luminaries who made it so were ordinary guys who took their fishing to an extraordinary level. As successful as summer steelhead fly fishing was, a major motivation for the fly only regulation was that many of these guys felt that continued bait fishing would over harvest the run. At that time, they believed that fly fishing was inefficient enough that the regulation along with closing Deer Creek proper to fishing would prevent over harvest. Even if the habitat had remained pristine, I doubt that would have remained the case over time.

    And how does one assign fly pattern "inventorship" when Bob Arnold tied the Spade at Jerry Wintle's direction? Not that it matters, but I like to hear the old stories. Like the Skunk is said to have first appeared on the N Umpqua; yet Wes Drain had what appears to be the identical pattern in his fly box in the 1940s.

    And if this shit is history, then somebody's calling me old.

    Sg
  7. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

    Posts: 1,272
    Kailua Hawaii
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    You're old.:p And yes scientists do screw everything up.:D Jeesh, let me live in a romantic fantasy world for a day with dry lines, flyfishing "legends" and a great river you damn buzz killer! Great insight Salmo. :beer2:Coach
  8. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,470
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,609 / 0
    By way of my catch record of recent, all my steelheading is nothing but a fantasy. I'm trying to live it to the fullest. Shit, I remember when I used to catch them like it was a regular happenin' thing. Time to go back to bamboo. Steelhead always did rise better to bamboo. I heard that somewhere.
  9. HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Posts: 2,746
    Bellingham
    Ratings: +103 / 0
    I feel like a dumbshit for posting that Coach, I learned that a long time ago now but this thread never seems to die. I typed that when I assumed everyone on this site was a Seattle based yuppie.

    BTW,I sleep with Trey Combs' first book as a pillow.

    Anyone ever notice that the oldest steelhead fly in the old flies frame from like 1883 is called the Van Zandt? I wonder if that has to do with the stretch of the SF Nooksack near there that has some beautiful steelhead water though without all the fish that were there in 1883.

    And I like the story of General Money.

    Cheers, Jason
  10. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

    Posts: 1,272
    Kailua Hawaii
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    I have two copies of Combs "big book". One is one of the leatherbound, signed and numbered versions and the other one is a beat to shit, falling apart hardcover version. I have a dirty little secret Buehler. That's the one I sleep with. I know too much and have been jaded a bit to really enjoy the writings (I still like a few chapters) but I look at the pictures and fly plates every night. Even in Hawaii. It's a wonderful disease that steelheading. Duff
    PS Anybody out there ever have so many damn steelhead around that they cut the point of the hook off so they could study the rises on dries and skaters. It's in the book. :hmmm:
  11. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,470
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,609 / 0
    Jason,

    I think the Van Zandt is a California pattern.

    Sg
  12. Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

    Posts: 2,557
    Quesnel, BC
    Ratings: +318 / 0
    The blown out elbow hole still holds steel and SRC, but in different places for each. That is my sons favorite place.

    It is nothing like I heard it used to be though.
  13. HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Posts: 2,746
    Bellingham
    Ratings: +103 / 0
    Ah damn....I suspect you are right. Was hoping it was an ancient local fly I could fish with pride.

    I like how all those old summer run flies are so thick and juicy like a good size bug (the wet flies I mean).

    Seems a bit different from the current "profile" type flies.
  14. Red Shed "junkyard spey"

    Posts: 517
    Peck, ID
    Ratings: +7 / 0
    :thumb::thumb::thumb:

    J, You can still fish that fly with pride. The old stuff is all still good.

    These recent posts are exactly what I like about steelhead and steelhead fly fishers. I saw my first chrome bright steelie when I was 11 or 12 and I have been in love with them ever since. It was a long while before I got up close and personal with the next one but Trey's first book and some other's kept the fire burning hot.

    Mac, Russ, Coach, Salmo, thank you for refreshing my memory of some of the greats from PNW steelhead fly fishing.
  15. Will Atlas Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    there is a gorgeous photo of the elbow hole in Combs' later work. i would practically kill to have fished the N.F. before it got destroyed.
  16. FT Active Member

    Posts: 1,242
    Burlington, WA
    Ratings: +102 / 0
    Jeremy,

    I haven't bothered to fish the little that is left of the Elbow since the late 90's when nearly all the good holding water that was left got destroyed. It used to have great holding water all the way from the top corner down to the frog water below the lower bend. Even the picture in Trey's book of the Elbow shows it after much of it had been ruined by the Deforest Creek slide's material. Just like the fine water above Cicero that was also filled in by the slide's material.

    But then again, it is a very dynamic river that has moved its course around quite a bit. George McLeod has told me that when he was a teen, the river flowed up in what are now the woods below Phil's place and that there was no water in the Pocket.
  17. Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

    Posts: 2,557
    Quesnel, BC
    Ratings: +318 / 0
    FT, I was fishing last october with (Ken? Tim? I can't remember that is the only time I have met him) Mcleod there in front of his house. He was dry fly fishing so I followed behind him and gave him the right of way to have the first shot at the run since I was tight line nymphing.

    Anyways, we had a great talk about the river, his Dad, Deer Creek Riffle and the Elbow Hole.

    I believe you about the dynamic qualities of the river. I was transferring deeds and stuff on to a map the other day and I found a patent from the 1890's that describes french creek more than halfway across a 1/4 of a 1/4 section south of where it is now. That is over 400 feet North that has moved in ~120 years.
  18. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

    Posts: 1,272
    Kailua Hawaii
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    A few years back I stayed for a 4 day spell at Roy Morris' house. Nancy and Roy are as good as hosts as you will ever find. Intelligent conversation is always the theme at their house in Sekiu. I fell in the Hoh that trip almost died and came back with the story of one 25 inch Dolly. Didn't even get a pull. Not a great week as far as catching steelhead, but awesome company. George McCloud was also staying there, as were a few other steelheaders. He slept in the back of his truck every night, which was cold as hell and rainy. He was a tough old bird. Nailed 4 fish in a small local river on gear one day, led some spirited debates at night about steelhead and their future and left everyone with a few original Skykomish Sunrises when he headed out in search of steelhead somewhere else. It was a great week fishless or not. :beer2: Coach
  19. Les Johnson Les Johnson

    Posts: 1,590
    .Redmond, WA
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    I guess one could get hung up on a rod named after any Puget Sound river given the depressed condition all of all the steelhead runs. If there is anyone who is not trying to promote Deer Creek to fishermen, it would be Mike Kinney. I've known Mike and fished with him for going on twenty years and can attest to the fact that he has the heart of a riverkeeper and loves the Stilliguamish river system including Deer Creek. In addition to pissing and moaning about the name of a two-hand rod, I hope that you belong to WSC and FFF in support of the effort such organizations to bring back Deer Creek and other Puget Sound rivers.
    Good Fishing,
    Les Johnson
  20. Red Shed "junkyard spey"

    Posts: 517
    Peck, ID
    Ratings: +7 / 0
    Well said Mr. Johnson!