Neah Bay report

Ira and I left at 2 am Friday morning to head out and spend three days fishing with Chris Bellows. When Chris got ahold of me last week I was eager to get the chance to fish with someone who knows Neah Bay so well.

After an uneventful drive out we met Chris at the launch around 5:30 and after introductions we were on the water rounding Wadah Island in no time. As we cruised out to the targeted fishing grounds north of Tatoosh we were quickly enveloped in a thick fog, something that would be a trend on this trip.

We arrived to the area Chris wanted to target and soon found a nice choppy rip where we set up and began casting.
The drill was simple.... set up on top of a rip, shut the boat off, and begin casting. We were fishing clousers on heavy sinking heads. I was using 30' of T 17 on my 10 wt as it was what i had available, but Chris' setup of 25' of T 14 on a fast 8 wt was really the ideal tool.
My boat fly fishes 2 comfortably so we rotated out as we pounded all the likely water for several hours. We saw no bait, no fish....nothing. Just no fish around.
Eventually we tired of fighting fog and not finding silvers, so we headed to a spot Chris said was good for rockfish. After getting our drift set up we all began casting and catching big, fat, strong black rockfish. Lots of them. As in a fish a cast for as long as we could stay on them. I dont know how long we fished that spot, but at least 2-3 hours.
These fish were incredible. These were the biggest sea bass ive ever played with. They fought so strong. They would take my 10 wt right to the cork.
Ira, of course, had to bust out a floating line, indicator, and his patented balanced clouser and proceeded to catch fish under the the Pacific ocean.

After more action than i can really describe the wind and currents made it too difficult to stay on the drift so Chris suggested we head for a small, rocky cove he knew was nearby where we could get out of the wind. We cruised in there and spent a couple more hours catching rockfish.
Eventually we decided to head into the straights and do some searching. At one stop Chris had a follow and Ira hooked up briefly, but that was it.
Around 2 pm we were picking up to run to a different spot when my motor made a surging noise and started vibrating and bouncing and making all kinds of noise. The boat slowed way down instantly. I stopped the motor and after some investigation we discovered that one of the three blades on my prop had sheared clean off. Luckily we were not that far away from NB and were able to putz in on the kicker.
As we trolled in we discussed the prop. I spun a prop on May 1st and this was a brand new replacement a few days later. Initially after installation the boat ran good, though i quickly figured out that it was not the correct prop for heavy loads and big ocean swell. After a few outings of running good i started to have problems. The motor just didnt seem to have any power. I would be wide open throttle and it would top out at 4100 rpm everytime. When i first installed the prop it ran at 5100 WOT. This lack of power issue went on for a couple months until recently when it just went away. I took the boat out twice and it ran great with full power. The day before heading to NB i took it out and it ran fine. However mid morning on friday it was back to the same. We would go move spots and only be able to go about 12-14 mph top speed. Well as we discussed the broken prop on the slow journey back to the dock we theorized that perhaps i got a bad prop from the store and that maybe that prop blade has been slightly broken and working back and forth, changing how the motor would run, until it finally just gave out and broke.
After we got in and pulled the boat out we headed to where Chris was camped. I dropped off the boat and hauled butt to the local marine mechanic shop in Sekiu where i was greeted with an extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff who got me set up with a brand new prop/hub. The broken prop was a 19 pitch so i opted for a 17 pitch to get increased lower end push. I got back to camp and quickly replaced the prop after which Chris and I took it out for a quick test run. All seemed well.

The next day, fishing wise, was about the same. Spent the morning fighting fog while searching for salmon, then spent the rest of the time catching rockfish till our fingers could hardly take it. I cannot over emphasize how much fun these fish are on the fly. So strong, and so aggressive. Chris managed to get several to come up to his popper, and if i can figure out how ill post some sweet video i took of a popper hookup. No need for a stinger with these fish thats for sure. I did manage to hook one stray silver while targetting rockfish but that was it for thr day. Around 3 or so the wind was kicking up pretty good so we dropped Chris at the dock and Ira and I headed out and did some gear fishing where we managed a few rock fish and Ira got a nice keeper ling that fought like a heavy weight.

Saturday night we made a plan to buddy boat with a friend of Chris who had radar. This would enable us to run out across the shipping lanes out to Swiftsure bank. We decided Ira would ride in Chris' friend Tony's boat and we would follow. We left the dock around 5:30 and after a foggy, but decent run we stopped on the edge of the bank in 700+ feet of water. There were some birds around and Tony mentioned this is the area he had been seeing some fish. I grabbed my rod and made a cast, and Chris grabbed his and just sorta fed out some line getting situated. I let my line sink a bit, then made about 4 strips and hooked a silver. We fished hard for two days and i had just the one silver hookup and here on my first cast ever at Swiftsure i hook up. Yes! After coming tight on the fish i looked over and see Chris is also hooked up on his first "cast". Shortly after my fish came unbuttoned so i sat ny rod down to help Chris.
As i watched him fight this fish it became obvious this was not a small silver. It never jumped. Just kept making long runs straight down. I kept saying "This has to be a king" and while im sure Chris agreed, he didnt say too much as i dont think he wanted to jinx it. Chris' 8 wt was bent to the cork. His reel screeming as the fish just sounded over and over, each time Chris working him back close. Finally the fish was near the boat and i just slid the net past its head when it surged and took off. Luckily i was able to pull the net back without catching the hook, and a minute or two later was able to successfully net what i estimate to be around 18 lb chinook. Oh man what a fish....king on the fly in 700'. Doesnt get much cooler than that.
After the excitement settled down we split up from the other boat and began to search for fish. The fog made it difficult to locate bird activity, and the fish were never super concentrated, but we found a fish or two at many of our stops to fish. At one point we ran back to Ira and Tony who were set up over a nice ball of herring that coho were actively feeding on. I was able to get a couple casts right into the bait before we lost it in the fog and received multiple strikes each time.
A little while later i got my first fish bucktailing, which was cool for trolling.
Around 2 we decided we had had enough of the fog, and called it a day. On the run back in we spotted some active birds and slowed to check it out. Tony saw us slow behind him and quickly came over to tell us there was a big ship coming quickly. We then heard the fog was not far... time to go! Tony pulled into the lead and we hauled ass as hard as we could.... it was pretty scary. We could not see anything in the fog, but we could hear the horn getting louder over the sound of my wide open 2-stroke. It seemed like it was right behind us! After a very tense few minutes Tony slowed to inform us we were out of the shipping lanes. He also told us the vessel, whatevee it was, was moving along at 35 mph and went right thru where we stopped about 90 seconds after we took off! Holy cow. Scary stuff and good reminder as to why playing in the fog without radar is not the best idea. Thankfully we were with someone equipped to see in the fog.
After that scare the rest of the run back was smooth. The fog never cleared until we rounded Wadah and headed into the harbor.

In all it was truly a great time. We experienced some fantastic fishing and even with the fog saw some amazing things. We had porpoises swimming all around and under the boat, came across a sea lion gorging on a huge king right next to the boat, saw a sea otter, and Ira even caught a bird on a clouser.
More than anything else i wanted to take this opportunity to learn from Chris, and learn i did. So so much. From tips for using my electronics to fishing techniques and locations, Chris taught me an awful lot. I simply cannot thank him enough for his patients and generosity. I tried to soak up as much as i could. I cant wait to get back and put what i learned to use.

Neah Bay is an amazing place. So beautiful and so much to offer the saltwater fly fisher. I really encourage anyone who gets the chance to fish out there to jump on it. The rockfish alone make it worth it. I simply cannot describe how much fun that is.

I took lots of pics, and got some great video including Chris fighting his king. If i can get them off the camera one of these days ill add them.

Many thanks to Chris and Ira for being great company, as well as helping me through the expensive prop disaster. Couldnt have done it without their help. As for the new prop... well, its now a whole new boat. The motor ran so good and so strong both days, including the long run to the bank yesterday. Amazing what a prop can do.

Amazing.... I had a nympher and a swinger in my boat for three days and everyone lived to tell about it ;)

Pat Lat

Mad Flyentist
Aaaaah! I hate you :) I need a boat, or a certain friend of mine with deeper pockets to buy one so I can bum a ride cause I've been wanting to go to neah for years now

Thanks for the report nick, good read.