comments and discussion encouraged

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Playing the Fall River dry fly game ...

Can you see a size 20 spinner?


the game isn't easy, which is a good thing...

a true blanket spinner fall...

you need patience...

that lead to moments of clarity...

Dennis on the bamboo, a recent highlight...

Thursday, June 16, 2022

What is a bead kook?

I love the word Kook.  I first heard the term used with regularity when I moved to Tahoe and immersed myself in the world of ski and snowboard culture.  In that world, when you are a local making minimum wage doing some shitty job just so you can ride every day, and have to deal with some tourist wearing a Bogner one piece kook suit telling you that her boots are too tight and soy latte is too hot, or they deserve a better parking spot, or they try to pass you on highway 89 during a blizzard with chains on the wrong tires...then you start to understand the meaning of what a total kook is.   I really fell in love with the term, so I incorporated it into the fly fishing world, where there is no shortage of kooks.

In the Urban Dictionary, a kook is defined as one who pretends to be someone who they are not and/or someone who tries to fit in but with exaggeration.  Kind of like a poser.  There is really nothing wrong with that, unless the kook starts to interfere with someone else's fun.  For example...

This is a kook surfing...

In surfing, where the term really took off, a kook is defined with someone who interferes with others surfer's fun because he/she doesn't know anything about surf ethics, or doesn't have the right surf level of experience for the specific surf spot.  In fly fishing, kooks can definitely interfere with other peoples fun on a number of levels.   Among other non redeeming qualities that interfere with other angler's fun, fly fishing kooks tend to have certain unappealing qualities in common all over the world, such as shitty ethics/etiquette, no respect for the fish, and tend to be numbers obsessed.

This is a ski kook...

An important thing to point out is that if you are new to fly fishing, you may not know if you are being a kook, but just because you are a beginner fly fisherman doesn't mean you are a kook.  Everyone was new to fly fishing at some point, and we have all done kooky things along the way. When speaking specifically about steelhead fishing, bead kooks have slowly taken over.  Numbers obsessed guides have popped up all over Pacific Northwest rivers, lobbing their kooky bead rigs on their 20 mile floats.  Nothing wrong with side drifting bobber rigs, but I take offense to a rig that has absolutely no fly in the equation whatsoever.  Seriously, no flies on the rig at all, just various plastics, lots of lead, and bare hooks getting lobbed from one side of the boat to the other, then dead drifting through every inch of water until you hook a fish somewhere, often outside the mouth.  How is this fly fishing?  

Here is a diagram below of a bead kook would rig...


If you are kooking out on a guide day, you might not even know it, you may just be misguided...literally.  So, if you are a beginner or novice fly fisherman going out with a guide, you might need to do some homework before you book the trip to avoid this uncomfortable parking lot conversation...

Client: Hi (insert millennial name) so, what flies are we using today?

Guide: We are going to use what works best to hook as many fish as possible today man.  We will be pulling color all day yo!

Client: Cool!  So, what flies do you think will be most successful?

Guide: Eggs dude.  The egg grab is on fire.  Total slayfest of chrome.

Client: Eggs eh, like, glow bugs or yarn patterns?

Guide: Patterns?  That old dude shit doesn't really work, so we are gonna throw beads.  My beads look more like eggs than anything else.

Client: Hmm, beads?  Like necklace beads at the craft store?  Do you tie them on to a hook or something?

Guide: No, but I paint them.  Revlon Red number 2 crossed with Bamboo Shoot is crushing.

Client: Ummm, ok.  So you paint them, then tie them on the hook and make some sort of a fly out of it?

Guide: No, actually we peg the egg above the hook with heavy mono or toothpicks.  They eat the bead, then the hook below it hooks the fish.

Client: So, what's on the hook?
Guide: Nothing, well a snelled knot is on there.
Client: So, where's the fly?
Guide: Fly?  The bead is the...wait, no, the hook is, wait.  Whatever, who cares?

Client: I'm confused, I thought you were a fly fishing guide?  I thought we were fly fishing today?

Guide: (sighs, annoyed) Dude we are fly fishing today.  (points) Just look at the big sign on my truck and Clack that says (millennial name's) fly fishing guide service.  I'm a fly fishing guide.

Client: But we aren't using flys, at all...correct?

Guide: Whatever, again, who cares?  I'm gonna, I mean, we're gonna get em.  C'mon, we gotta jam dude.  Don't worry about all these meaningless little details.  We gotta beat everyone to the boat ramp and make it to the Sanctuary Pool first.  It's right below a creek, and the fish are hella stacked in there just chilling. The spey fags yell at me for fishing there, just because they are jealous of all the chrome I've been slaying in there the last 11 days in a row.  Its' a super long, really slow drift, but ultra exciting when it's bobber down time bro.  Then we will just motor back up the run and hit it 15 to 20 more times and then just motor back up to the put in and take out.

Client: Wait, I'm confused again.  I thought I booked an experience where I was going to be fly fishing on a drift boat trip.  But you're telling me that we aren't going to be using flies at all, and we are putting in and taking out at the same place, and not drifting to a takeout?

Guide: (defensive) Well yeah, it's the best program on the river man.  Or we can burn out a 20 mile float, but we should have already left if we were going to do that because I can't stand being behind anyone.  Oh, did you get my sandwich?

I'm not making this shit up.  Similar conversations are happening every day on steelhead rivers throughout the PNW.  Bead kooks masquerading as fly fishing guides have overrun our boat ramps with their kooky ass bobbers, beads, and bare hooks.  What can be done?  I think calling them out is a good first step.  Kooks.  

What do you think?

This is a piece I wrote for Sierra Fisherman a few years ago about fly casting.  I would have folks read it before they came to fish with me in New Zealand.  I think it is quite relevant to anyone who picks up a fly rod.

                  How to be a better Fly Caster:

This easy ½ hour practice drill will have you throwing darts!

By Dax Messett

I love technical angling situations that require accurate casts, whether it be head hunting on a spring creek dry fly fishing for rising trout, or sight fishing a saltwater flat for spooky permit.  Every fly angler aspires to develop the ability to consistently throw those beautiful, tight candy cane shaped loops on their overhead cast.  When it comes to the art of fly fishing, I think many of us were initially attracted to the artistic nature of fly casting, not necessarily the fishing part of the discipline.  Casting a fly is the “essence" of our sport, as superb instructor and mentor Mel Kreiger frequently pointed out.  These days, many anglers simply never practice their overhead casting because they are “too busy fishing”.  Whatever.  If all you aspire to do in fly fishing is lobbing a bobber from one side of a drift boat to another while the person rowing does all the fishing, then you don’t need to continue reading…in fact, perhaps you should just use conventional gear, as it looks way less stupid and is much more effective to catch fish.  But if you want to throw tight loops on demand, apply mends in the air to achieve a desired presentation before the line hits the water, and just get the most enjoyment out of the sport, then you need to spend some time on the lawn practicing your craft.  The key way to understand the fundamental concepts of flycasting and to actually practice your stroke is to spend some time on the lawn or pond, without the distraction of actual fishing.  A half hour on the lawn or casting pond a few times a week is all it takes to turn even a beginner into a keen fly caster.  

Loops. The first and foremost fundamental concept regarding overhead casting, is to understand that the shape of the loop is determined by the path of the rod tip.  Read that again, real slow, and let it sink in.  Now read it one more time, seriously.  When trying to identify any issue you may be having with your loop, just refer back to this first fundamental concept, which is the premise of all fly casting.  There are different styles of casting, but this foundation does not change.

Two primary things to focus on in this practice session are your “casting arc” and casting “stroke”.  Timing, the third crucial element to a good cast, will come after doing this practice drill regularly.  

Casting arc:

The path of the rod tip during an overhead cast has two stops in it.  The distance between the back cast stopping point and the forward cast stopping point is called the arc.  The size of your loop is determined by the size of this arc.  The wider the arc, the wider the loop…not a good thing.  A wide loop does not turn the leader over completely, therefore lacks accuracy, power, and distance.  The narrower the arc, the narrower the loop.  A narrow loop will turn over a leader accurately, penetrate the wind, and maximize distance.  A good loop basically looks like a candy cane.  Think how a Ferrari is shaped, then how a VW bus is shaped…which one would you chose in a race?

This is where the old clock face analogy comes into play.  The distance between your back and forward stops should be between 11 and 2, resulting in a tight arc and narrow loop…good!  9 to 3 has a very wide arc, therefore results in a wide loop that lands into a pile just in front of your rod tip….not good.


There are many casting strokes that work, but for non salt water situations I personally favor a compact, vertical casting stroke.  You rotate your shoulder with this stroke, and your elbow goes up and down during this rotation, while keeping everything compact and your wrist fairly stiff.  A compact stroke generates a compact arc which leads to a tight loop…good!  A stroke that has a lot of wrist movement and arm extension generally leads to wide, open loops…bad, unless you are lobbing bobbers, lead, and beads from a moving driftboat, which isn’t flyfishing anyway.

The basic stroke starts with the rod tip down, your elbow at your side, and your forearm inline with the rod.  Avoid starting your cast with the rod tip pointed up high…you lose all the power that would go into loading the rod on your backcast.  There should be a 90degree angle between your bicep and forearm.  

Next, distinctly rotate your shoulder up as if you were touching the brim of your hat, which lifts your forearm to a vertical position.  Maintain that 90 degree angle and keep compact.  Stop the rod, with your hand in the neutral position with a firm wrist, and the rod  will magically stop at 11 o’clock.  Even if you bend your wrist an inch, the rod will stop too far back, and lose the load.   When stopped in the correct position, the weight of the line behind the rod tip will cause the rod to bend, or load.  This is the sweet spot.  Now rotate your shoulder back down again and stop (unload)the rod at about 2.  Avoid reaching out and extending, which will widen your arc and open your loop.  Keep compact, and your forearm and bicep at that 90 degree angle, and the line will sling out there in a straight tight loop.

In the words of Allen Iverson, we are talking about Practice…

Use an old 7 to 9 foot 3x leader with a small piece of yarn or visible dry fly with the point clipped off.

1. Pick up and lay down:  Strip off 15 feet of line off of your reel.  Don’t use your line hand yet, just place the line in your control finger of your casting hand, and relax your other arm.  This is just to warm up, get into a rhythm, and really focus on your vertical lift and stop during the backcast.  Rotate the shoulder up, and distinctly stop the rod with your hand in its neutral position and tip up high, around 11 on a clock face.  When the line straightens out behind you and the rod loads, rotate your shoulder back down and stop the rod at 2.  Don’t reach out and open your arm, just keep your forearm and bicep at the compact 90 angle, almost as if a tennis ball can be held between them.  Relax, if you are all stiff this won’t work.  If you have to, put the hand you aren’t using in your pocket, or hold a glass of wine and chill out.  Then lay the line on the ground nice and straight.  If it isn’t straight, it isn’t right.  Pause after every lay down to observe the straightness of the line.  No false casting yet, just pick up and lay down, and develop this nice and easy stroke.    5 minutes of doing it right until you move on.

2. False casting:  With the same 15-18 feet of line, start to make some false casts, and focus on the feel of the rod, loading and unloading.  To establish timing, make 2 or 3 false casts, then a presentation cast by laying the line down.  Rotate up, rotate down.  Try not to make 27 false casts before the presentation cast, as this develops a very bad habit in an angling situation.  Don’t use the line hand yet, just keep the line between your control finger.  5 minutes

3. False cast/presentation:  Strip out 10 more feet of line, and introduce your line hand by just holding the line in between your index finger and thumb.  Don’t hold the line in your control finger anymore on your rod hand.  Make three false casts, then a presentation cast.  Do not change your stroke or try to double hall, or try to cast 75 feet of line now. 5 minutes of doing it right.

4. Shoot line:  Strip out another 10 feet of line.  You should now have about 50 feet. .  For this drill, always start with just 15-18 feet of line, instead of trying to aerialize 50 feet all at once.  Do 3 false casts and shoot a few feet of line each time, then try to shoot the rest on the last (presentation) cast.  It is very important to try and do it in just 3 false casts…the more false casting you do, the more likely you are to lose your timing and really piss of a guide in an angling situation.  Keep your stoke compact!  You can easily shoot 50 feet of line while maintaining a compact stroke.  5 minutes.

5. Accuracy:  This is fun.  Throw a hat, plate, hula hoop or anything that will make a target at 15 feet.  Try to hit it!  Then move it to 20, 30, 40, & 50 feet away.  Take the time to get proficient at the close range targets.  10 minutes.

I promise if you practice these steps in the manner in which they are described, you will be throwing controlled, tight, and accurate casts in no time on the water once muscle memory and rhythm is developed.  Remember, don’t get sucked into distance, short range accuracy is more critical for most technical angling situations, and distance is an eventual product of having controlled, tight loops.  Good casting is fun!

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The February Room Podcast

Justin Karnopp has a great podcast called The February Room.  Although he spelled my last name wrong here, I was very stoked to be asked to be on it.  He's a super good host and shares some classic stories of his own with us.

  I talk about the day in Mexico when I thought I was being abducted, then saw my first permit while bone fishing, and then got my pocket picked by a little girl.   We also discuss some more serious issues like the chronic mismanagement of wild steelhead in Southern Oregon by the ODFW.  Check it out here:


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

ODFW management plan includes the harvest of wild steelhead on the Oregon Coast

On December 17,2021 the ODFW Commission adopted the Rogue–South Coast Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan. The plan allows and in some cases, increased wild winter steelhead harvest. They made this decision despite having absolutely no data to support it and the majority of public comments strongly against it, including a petition signed by over 25,000 people.  The governor appointed commission voted 5-2 vote in favor of the slaughter part, often citing that the "local" people on the coast like to murder fish, and that they don't want to take that privilege from them, which is ridiculous.  The Rogue River is 215 miles long, so what about the people who use it for the rest of the 210 miles above the coast?  

Conservation is defined by limiting the wasteful use of something.  How can they seriously call this a "Conservation Plan?"  How about making management decisions based on science and data other than people with pitchforks and torches yelling nonsense at a county courthouse?  Why are our management agencies making decisions based on some local, archaic, redneck politics?  What the hell is going on?  

Since some of the funding for this "conservation" plan is allocated by certain county commissioners (pitchfork holders) who think murdering wild steelhead is family tradition and their god given right, it seems that ODFW feels financially compelled to acquiesce to the torch bearers agenda instead of actual science and data (which they do not have)...which is absolutely horrifying.  What year is this?  What planet do we live on?  What do you think?

This is a piece I wrote for The Drake magazine on the subject a few years ago.  Since then, the new management plan is out, and they raised harvest limit from 3 wild fish per year to 5...

To view the piece on the Drake's sight, click here:

Can’t We Let Them Live?

Why does Oregon still allow wild steelhead to be killed? by Dax Messet

As a longtime Oregon resident, angler, and guide, I spend 40-60 days a year during winter steelhead season on the rivers of the Southern Oregon coast. I interact with anglers that use all types of methods, and every one of them I’ve talked to has noticed a significant decline in encounters with wild steelhead. How can this be explained? There are only 12 rivers left in the Lower 48 where anglers can still legally harvest a wild steelhead. All twelve of these are in my home state of Oregon, and ten of them are in the Southwest Zone, where myself, other guides, and a huge contingent of recreational anglers annually chase the legendary winter steelhead run.

On January 17, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-2 to deny a petition that would have temporarily  prohibited the killing of wild winter steelhead throughout the Southwest Zone. A similar petition was denied in 2018. Why? According to a statement posted on the ODFW website, staff recommended denial because they “do not have a conservation concern for wild winter steelhead on the south coast for 2020.”

Why not, for once, be preemptive instead of reactive?

Which begs the obvious question: Why wait until there’s a concern? Why not, for once, be preemptive instead of reactive? Have we learned nothing from lessons on the Columbia River?

Many of us don’t need to hook a steelhead to enjoy our angling experience; but we do need to know that we at least have a chance to hook one, even if we plan to release them afterward. Based on ODFW’s own data, wild steelhead populations are decreasing, while harvest rates are increasing. You don’t need to be a fish biologist to recognize that this is an unsustainable situation.

When I reached out last year to the ODFW district biologist in my area, in order to share my concerns, he was unwilling or unable to provide me with any data that supports the ODFW decision to still allow the  harvesting of wild fish, which at the time was five a year per angler. Instead of providing me with data that supports the continuation of a kill fishery, he explained how important is was to provide “opportunity”—which supposedly sells licenses and provides community revenue—and how habitat for wild steelhead affects their population more than harvest.

Somewhat surprisingly, it’s not just the catch-and-release flyfishermen that want the legalized killing to end. Last year, legendary gear-fishing guide Harvey Young started a petition that asked the Commission to require the release of all wild steelhead in the region, citing numerous reasons why catch-and-release would benefit anglers and businesses in southwest Oregon. In September of 2018, the petition was brought to the Commission meeting in Salem, where the Commission argued that there is “no conservation concerns for wild steelhead in the Southwest Zone.” (Sound familiar?) Ultimately, they denied the petition, but they did lower the annual harvest limit from five to three per year.

Harvey’s petition is back, now with nearly 25,000 supporters and growing. Along with signing the petition, concerned anglers have written dozens of public comments to the Commission, and many of these anglers were in attendance at the January meeting in Salem. So much emphasis by ODFW seems to be placed on the reasons why or why not wild steelhead numbers are down. They continue to argue that the problem is more about habitat than harvest—and they could be right. But those of us who signed the petition aren’t as concerned about the “why.” We aren’t saying that over-harvest is necessarily what made the numbers drop, we’re just saying that they have dropped, period, and until we know the cause, we shouldn’t be killing any more wild steelhead.

For too long, Pacific Northwest states have managed steelhead fisheries right to the cusp of being threatened or endangered. I understand the importance of providing angler opportunity, but not at the cost of the long-term sustainability of wild steelhead on the beloved rivers of the Southern Oregon coast.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Remembering the Sandy River Spey Clave, and Spey Moses

This is the intro to a presentation I gave at the legendary Sandy River Spey Clave.  I really miss this event, as it was a gathering of some really special folks in the fly fishing industry.  Jonny Hazlett took me to my first one, and it was instrumental in my growth as a spey caster for which I am forever grateful.  On top of being able to try every rod and reel on the market, meet and mingle with awesome people, and drink alcohol hidden in coffee cups, a highlight was watching the best in the industry give awesome presentations.  It featured the true icons in the spey world with folks like George Cook, Scott O'donnell, Simon Gawesworth, Mike McCune, Charles St. Pierre, and other characters who I am grateful to have become mentors and great friends with over the years.  

The 10 Commandments of Spey presentation I gave is not on the level of those dudes, but I was hoping to do something a little different that would be both humorous and instructional.  Not sure if everyone found it to be either, but it here it is...

Intro at the Sandy Clave:

here is a preview for the presentation from 

and here is a video of the very first appearance of Moses demonstrating a spiral spey on the Upper Rogue River...

and a pedestrian snap t