Sep 142019

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River during the 2019 fall salmon run is proving to be a tough one. The peak of the salmon run has passed this area of the Columbia River and the fishing is tough. The daily salmon limit is one. If you get lucky and get a fish early in the morning, when most of the action seems to be happening, your salmon fishing day is over by eight or nine o’ clock. Or, fish all day and get nothing, which is what I got my last time out.

There are more fishing boats than ever and way less fish. That is a poor combo if you’re looking for good fishing.

Salmon fishing boats as far as the eye can see with hardly any fish caught.

You know it’s bad when six people get off a big guide service boat and take turns taking pictures with the one fish they caught.

It’s a weekend and all the salmon fishing spots are packed to the max. The name brand spots are out of boat parking spaces by 9AM. With a one fish limit, there is a lot of boat launch maneuvering with all the boats coming and going. We are going to spend some predicted showery weather and try to have some fun bass fishing, then give the salmon another shot in a day or two.

Sep 102019

It has been a wild couple of days kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River, to put it mildly. It’s been windy the past four or five days and it was Labor Day weekend; even though the season will almost certainly be closed sooner rather than later, we had to pass on the Salmon fishing. The next morning was forecast for light winds; 2mph from the east. Perfect for kayak fishing with minimal paddling.

I humped the kayak down the cliff at O dark thirty and noticed the wind was a bit more than the forecast 2mph. In fact, it was blowing pretty hard. As is often the case in this part of Washington, the wind was blowing from two directions at the same time; about 6-8mph from the west and 4-6mph from the north. The wind was forecast to die to nearly calm by noon, so I was hoping this was as bad as it would get. I launched the kayak and nosed cautiously on to the main channel of the Columbia River. Keep in mind, the wind is howling from two different directions and it is pitch black. The waves were easily 3-4 feet, which on a SOT kayak is just about overhead. The wind was howling down the Columbia River Gorge from the west, making short interval wind swells. My 13’6″ kayak was dipping down the backside of the wave, into the trough and not being able to make it up the next wave, so the waves were breaking over the bow and I started to take on water.

I had only paddled five hundred feet and it was already knarly. I kept the bow into the waves, but the short intervals of the waves kept them breaking over the bow. Because I have not kayak fished in super knarly conditions like paddling through breaking waves on the ocean for some time so my kayak was rigged for calm water fishing. There are four scupper holes, which are basically “self bailers”. You will get water in the kayak, but not enough to sink. Because I don’t like fishing with a wet butt, two of the scuppers are plugged with silicone seal. The other two are functional, just in case of a situation like this. The kayak was almost full of water, cameras and tackle boxes floating around by the light of my headlamp, so I yanked the two scupper plugs out and hoped they would not float away in the wind and waves. During a brief lull in the wind swells, I quickly turned the kayak around, taking another wave broadside as I turned, and headed back to the launch.

The kayak was full of water. I had foolishly neglected to deploy the rough water setup for the front hatch, so water had come through and flooded inside the hull. About a half gallon of water below, not too bad considering the conditions. Everything on the boat was wet, including me from the neck down, except for the dry bag below with my wallet, cell phone and keys in it. When things are going bad, you try to look for the positive side. That would be that the water temperature is very warm. I was wet. If this happened a month from now, I would be wet and freezing. Big difference. I spent a half hour bailing out the kayak, stowing the camera gear and getting ready for another really wet attempt at the day of salmon fishing. The swells were dropping a bit but the wind continued to blow. I paddled back out into a lumpy, bumpy, windy river, but now, there were a bunch of boats bobbing around. I was soaking wet and the early morning battle against the Columbia River had definitely woke me up.

It was getting light and I was casting for salmon and bailing water out of the kayak as the wind kept blowing and the waves kept coming. The fishing was slow. Boats were bobbing heavily at anchor in shallow water and I did not see any fish being caught. Still, I had taken a pretty good pounding, courtesy of the Columbia River, I wanted a little something for the effort. I kept working my way between anchored boats and river swells, when I got a strike in a most unlikely spot and managed to land a Chinook salmon between the bank anglers and the anchored boats. With my daily limit of one salmon in hand, I paddled in. The Columbia had wet slapped me in the face, but I got my limit. A wild experience when you least expect it and only one photo to show for it. That’s fishing; it’s the experience, not necessarily the fish you catch.

Chinook salmon caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish on a rough weather day on the Columbia River

I spent the rest of the day drying everything out. The wind, which was forecast to be nearly calm, was ripping. Kiteboarders were enjoying a great wind day with the summer crowds gone, the NOAA/National Weather Service stated it was 2mph. Note my pants flying sideways from the camper hatch, drying in the sun and wind. Because so much water had come into the hull of the kayak, even with minimal closure of the hatch, I checked the hatch gasket and found it had come apart. I repaired this before, but it needs regular inspection and maintenance. Super Glued the rubber hatch gasket back together and ready to go fishing. Tomorrow is forecast to be calm before afternoon thunderstorms.

Drying everything out after a wet day of fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

It was nearly dead calm when I paddled out on to the Columbia River the following day. Maybe people are reading this blog or maybe they are just getting desperate, but at exactly one hour before sunrise, there were a half dozen boats and a plenty of early rising bank fishermen. Once again, I had no action and I did not see any other boats land fish. I did see the bank fishermen land a couple. The shore fishermen have been doing pretty well from what I’ve seen.

A WDFW boat showed up, which is rare, stopped at an anchored boat at the edge of a pack of thirty boats, then proceeded directly towards me.
The WDFW officer inspected my kayak, asked for my fishing license, which I provided and asked to show my PFD and signalling device, which I did. He asked to inspect the lure I was using, and I showed him. It was a barbless treble hook on a Mepps spinner. I had just switched lures and only cast it a few times. He informed me it was illegal, a violation of the anti snagging rules. I needed to use a single hook, not barbless with this lure in this particular spot, where I live, for this salmon fishing season. I only fish for salmon in two or three spots, all near where I live, they all have different regulations and they change regularly; it’s very confusing. I had the same spinner in my tackle box with a siwash(single) hook, unfortunately, I picked the wrong one. I was also informed that because I did not have my Salmon/Steelhead card on my kayak(it’s in the glove box of my truck, 100 yards away), it would be a $150 fine. The reason I keep my Salmon card in my glove box is because my fishing kayak is wet. Very wet. 45° air temp, 50° water temp, drizzle, everything wet, not a great place for paperwork. I’m not a poacher, I’m trying to do the right thing. I offered to paddle in, get my card and show the WDFW officers; thirty minutes, max. No deal. I fill out my card and send it in every year. I did what I though was right to provide information necessary to keep the salmon fishery alive and send the State of Washington a card they would be able to read. No dice, $150 fine.

Anyway, after the visit from the WDFW, I clipped on a lure that I hoped would conform to the current WDFW regulations and tried to get back to fishing. $150 lighter, I continued to fish while the WDFW boat patrolled the edge of the salmon pack. I was afraid they would come in and bust me again for the salmon card; that fucking sucks. I caught this Chinook salmon and headed home like a thug who had just robbed a bank.

Dodging government patrols, a hungry man in Washington catches a salmon to eat

So, I caught a salmon, which is what I wanted to do, but this day will be nothing but bad memories. Salmon fishing has always been competitive, especially as the salmon populations shrink, but it’s gotten to the point where, aside from catching the fish itself, salmon fishing in a pack of boats is not that great of an experience. I reckon it’s merely a reflection of the loss of respect Americans have for each other.

The conditions here were not great for kayak fishing, so we headed to another spot where the fishing was better. Limits of one fish were fairly easy to get, but the fishing days are short that way. We’ll try again in a day or two, but the photo and video opportunities for salmon fishing have been hard to come by.

Sep 032019

With much trepidation and apprehension, the 2019 fall salmon fishing season on this part of the Columbia River is under way. All year there had been dire predictions of low returning fish counts and that has proven to be the case so far. Steelhead fishing is history. The returning coho run is supposed to be better than last year, which was a salmon fishing disaster. Chinook salmon numbers are worse than last year. The daily fish limit is one; hatchery Chinook or Coho.

The peak of the salmon run here is about the first week in September. This peak is very predictable and varies little from year to year. Usually, we start salmon fishing on the Columbia River after Labor Day weekend. Summer is over and the fair weather visitors begin to head home. This year, knowing the salmon run would be poor and fishing season liable to be cancelled at any time, we hit the river a few days before the Labor Day weekend.

We fish at a spot that is mostly local fishermen. It’s not a “brand name” spot, which is fine with the locals. If you know what you are doing, it is a good spot for salmon and Steelhead fishing. The fishing techniques you need to use to be successful are a bit different than standard Columbia River salmon fishing, so fishermen not familiar with the spot may not do so well. Normally at this time of year, there are a fair amount of salmon fishing boats out fishing. This season, there have been hardly any. On a calm day on the Columbia River at any known salmon fishing spot, there will be boats, but not so far this season.

A relatively few salmon fishing boats on the Columbia River for the 2019 salmon fishing season

This fishing spot is not too popular with kayak fishermen because it is either a long, sometimes windy, paddle across the Columbia River, or a sketchy hike down a crumbling cliff with all your gear. In the dark. Hauling the kayak up the cliff after a long day of fishing is no picnic either. If you look at your fishing kayak as an “investment”, this is not the fishing spot for you.

A rocky kayak launch at the base of a steep cliff

If you are a regular reader of this kayak fishing blog, you know we like to be on the water well before the crack of dawn. This is especially true for salmon fishing, except that fishing for salmon may not start until one hour before sunrise. This time of year, it’s about 5:20AM, still dark. By 6:30AM, it’s already starting to get light. One hour before sunrise, the lines go in the river.

I fished three consecutive days. The first day, I hooked a nice fish, but it jumped a few times and ran under the kayak. In the dark. I got it next to the kayak and the hooks pulled out before I could get the landing net deployed and I lost it. I fished for another six hours and did not get another bite. The second day, just after I put my line in the water, I got a strike and landed this small coho salmon. It was a native fish, easily unhooked from the barbless hooks and released unharmed.

Small native coho salmon caught and released unharmed by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

At least I caught one; the 2019 Salmon Fishing season would not be a skunk! That’s the way salmon fishing, and a lot of other big game fishing is like; you don’t catch anything until you do. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you do not.

Back to fishing in the pre-dawn darkness when I had another solid strike and hookup. I could tell this fish was bigger than the coho salmon I had just caught and released. When there is no light, the Columbia River is like a black hole. I was fighting the fish mostly by feel. The only time I could see anything was if the fish jumped or splashed on the surface. After a nice battle in the dark, the fish was next to the kayak. Getting a landing net under a struggling salmon is tough enough, try doing it in pitch blackness!

Pre dawn salmon fishing on the Columbia River with

Got the fish in the net and had a look; it was a hatchery Chinook salmon, probably a male. The first keeper of the 2019 salmon fishing season. After nothing the day before, I had caught two salmon, one released, essentially limiting out before 6:00AM this morning. That’s salmon fishing for you.

First Chinook salmon of the 2019 fall salmon run caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Encouraged by the previous day’s success, I was eager to go the final day of our salmon fishing mission. I fished from about 5:20AM until noon without a single bite. Not only did I not have any luck, with about twenty boats fishing for salmon, I did not see a single fish caught. Even when the fishing is bad, as it very well can be, it’s unusual to not see any fish caught.

That is not the direction salmon fishermen are hoping for. Perhaps it has just been a bad few days or a slow start to the salmon run, but after the last few years of rapidly declining returning salmon numbers, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the Columbia River salmon fishery. It seems almost a sure thing that the salmon fishing season on the Columbia River will be closed sooner rather than later. We will try to fish every day, weather permitting, because who knows how much longer there is going to be any salmon fishing at all?

Sep 032019

When conditions are perfect, you just have to go. We had barely returned from our last Cascade Mountain bike riding adventure when another passing summer storm system dumped enough rain on the dusty trails to return them to perfect mountain bike riding conditions. Summer is short in the Cascade Mountains so when there is an opportunity like this, you are duty bound as a mountain biker to go ride.

We were feeling pretty good after a couple days to rest our weary legs. The wind was howling so kayak fishing was out, trail conditions were perfect in the mountains, so we loaded the bike gear in the truck and headed into the Cascades.

We camped at a spot that is a little higher up the mountain. We wanted to try and ride to the mountain climbing camps at the edge of the National Wilderness, but you need to be in good shape. It is a stiff ten mile climb up the side of Mt. Adams and then down a rarely used trail in a remote section of forest. No fooling around. mountain bike camp in the Cascade Mountains

The recent rain had left the trails and roads dust free and in perfect mountain bike riding condition.

Perfect mountain bike riding conditions in the Cascade Mountains

Everything was clean and green. No dust and perfect bike riding conditions.

Perfect Cascade Mountain singletrack

The semi regular summer rain storms are keeping the mountain creeks and rivers flowing.

Cascade Mountain creek in central Washington

One day we headed up towards the climbing camps to test our fitness level. You don’t head off into the woods unless you’re sure you can make it back. It was relatively warm and windy following the storm front that had recently passed through. After about seven miles of climbing, at about 5000′, I had had enough. It was clear that I had still had work to do following the semi truck accident. There was still about four miles of climbing steep mountain roads to the camps, I just didn’t have it.

Mountain biking near Mt Adams in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

We headed back down the long, steep switchbacks around the ancient lava flows with a great view of Mt. Adams and the last remnants of the clearing storms. Best to stop if you want to take a look; this is a nasty lava rock road with a steep cliff alongside.

Mountain biking near Mt Adams in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

With the high altitude riding out of the way, we explored more of the many miles of trails in the National Forest. Today, we are riding around the mountain instead of up.

Mountain biking on Cascade mountain singletrack in central Washington
Mountain biking on Cascade mountain singletrack in central Washington

Even though most of the trails here do not have difficult technical sections or steep drops, there are plenty of rocks, roots and chunks of timber on the trail. They may not be technically difficult, but they can be tricky and very rough. On a harmless looking section of trail, my front wheel went into a hole covered by tree bark and over the bars I went. I’m normally very careful out here in the middle of nowhere, but sometimes things just happen. I lost a chunk of skin from my forearm, but it could have been much worse. Going over the handlebars is something you always want to avoid.

I rigged up a field dressing of paper towels and duct tape over my missing flesh and was able to ride the final day of the trip. Took it a bit easier than normal to avoid any further mishaps and enjoyed a great day of mountain bike riding in the Cascade Mountains.

Perfect Cascade Mountain singletrack
Perfect Cascade Mountain singletrack
Trail break while mountain biking in the Cascade Mountains

It’s going to start getting cool very quickly in the Cascades as we leave summer behind and head towards the long Pacific Northwest winter. We hope the mountain weather will continue to be in our favor and allow us more riding time on the fantastic trails of the Cascade Mountains.

Aug 202019

Once and a while, the planets align and you have an almost perfect day. A day when the surf is perfect and there is nobody out, an action packed day of kayak fishing for big fish, or like the week we had mountain biking and camping in the Cascade Mountains with absolutely perfect trail and camping conditions.

It’s been windy so no kayak fishing. Because of the widely varied and quickly changing environmental conditions of this part of the Pacific Northwest, you have to have a “Plan B”. That is bicycle riding for me, especially mountain biking in the forests and mountains. With the forecast of at least a week of strong winds, we packed up the bikes and headed to the Cascade Mountains.

We ride up here quite a bit. The Forest Service roads and trails through the National Forest are great for mountain biking. No death defying jumps and downhills, but there are technical sections and some of the trails are very remote so you don’t want to get hurt or damage your bike. It is the mountains, so it’s pretty much all up and down. It has been mid-summer hot here, we got to the campsite and got everything set up just before sunset.

Mountain bike camping in the Cascade Mountains at sunset with

The weather was so nice, about 50°F at night and high 70’s or low 80’s during the day, depending on the altitude. Morning is an active time in the forests of the Cascade Mountains, we like to get an early start and ride through the woods this time of day to check out the forest life.

Mountain bike riding in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

If you plan to ride up the mountain, it’s a good idea to get the major climbing done early while it is relatively cool. The temperature rises quickly as the sun comes up. It can be ten degrees hotter in the direct sun than in the shade. Riding the Forest Service or old logging roads up and the singletrack trails down is normally the plan. How far you can go depends on your condition. The big uphill climbs can be nearly ten miles of climbing. Then, ten miles of downhill single track. That’s a lot of bike riding.

Mountain biking on a Forest Service in the Cascade Mountains

We ride around looking for new places to ride and interesting things, of which there are many, along the way. When you are climbing a mountain on a bicycle, you have some time to enjoy the scenery. This is an ancient lava flow from when nearby Mt. Adams was an erupting volcano. Millions of years old, this lava flow stopped right here.

Ancient lava flow from Mt Adams in the Cascade Mountains

When you live or spend a lot of time in the mountains, one thing you learn straightaway is that the weather can change very quickly. The weather for the past few days had been beautiful. Nearly cloud free, sunny days. On the Sunday afternoon we were leaving, clouds started rolling in from the west, eventually obscuring the sun. With no internet or phone service, we did not know what the weather forecast was.

Storm clouds moving into the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

A few hours later, it started to rain. Then it started to rain harder. Then it started to rain really hard, pounding the top of the fiberglass camper. There was thunder and lightning that seemed like it was only a few feet away. At 2500′, we were probably in the lower level of storm clouds as the storm skimmed across the mountains. Then it started to hail, really hard. Hail can do a lot of damage to a vehicle, now I’m starting to worry a bit. Heard a tree fall nearby as the thunder and lightning continued, as well as heavy rainfall for some time. The next morning, I packed up my muddy bike, which had been lying locked next to my truck on what the day before had been the dry, dusty ground. Everything was damp and the bike had to be cleaned as we headed down into town, seeing blown down trees and evidence of minor flooding.

We knew the summer mountain storm had dumped a lot of rain on the dry, dusty roads and trails of the Cascade Mountains. We knew the rain had washed the dust off everything and left the roads and trails in perfect condition for bike riding. The weekend had passed, so there would not be many people there during the week. Seemed like too good of a situation to pass up so we packed up the riding gear and headed back to the mountains.

We went to a different camping spot this time. We drove up the mountain dirt road and couldn’t help but notice there was not a hint of dust. Usually this time of year your vehicle makes a dust cloud visible from space. Everything was clean and green from all the rain. The first morning there was a bit overcast in the aftermath of a major weather system, but we were ready to ride.

Overcast morning at the Cascade Mountain mountain bike camp

The reason we chose this campsite is that it is centrally located to many of the mountain trails between 2500′ and 4000′. These are not mountain bike trails, but trails that you can ride a mountain bike on. The trails usually run between Forest Service roads, some of them are very rough and remote. It was not a long ride from camp before we hit our first section of singletrack trail.

Mountain biking Cascade Mountain trail with perfect riding conditions

We were hoping for good trail conditions because of the rain and we got them. The trails were firm with great grip for my worn out rear tire with no dust or puddles. Everything was clean with a few drops of water left on some of the plants.

Mountain biking Cascade Mountain trail with perfect riding conditions

The following day was as nice as the day before. All the trails and roads were in mint condition and dust free.

Mountain bike riding on a Cascade Mountain trail

This is one of many very large trees in the National Forest. Logging is limited in the National Forest, some of these trees are very old. You can barely see my mountain bike at the base of the tree.

A very large tree in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Less than forty eight hours after a heavy and sustained downpour, the trails were already starting to dry out under the mid summer sun. There was a thin layer of dry dirt on top and damp below. There was almost no dust. This dirt is mostly ground down volcanic rock, so in most places, there is very little mud, even when wet. Pretty close to ideal trail conditions for mountain biking.

Perfect trail conditions for mountain biking in the Cascade Mountains

The mornings were cool, but it warmed up quickly. We were usually riding by 8:30AM.

Another great morning of camping and mountain biking in the Cascade Mountains

The weather and trail conditions continued to be just about perfect for the next couple days.

Mountain bike riding in the Cascade Mountains with

Met a couple horseback riders on the trail and a couple people on gravel bikes on one of the roads, other than that, we had all the trails to ourselves.

Early morning mountain biking in the Cascade Mountains
Mountain bike riding on a Cascade Mountain trail

One day, we decided to ride higher up the mountain. It takes a little while to get there when it’s uphill all the way. We aren’t here to race, we’re here to ride, so we stop and look at all the wonderful things there are to see in the Cascade Mountains.

A mountain stream in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

The roads up the mountain are fairly steep in places. Some of those places were made more difficult because of water damage from the recent severe thunderstorm.

Trail damage from recent severe mountain thunderstorm

It was already starting to get warm as we reached the higher elevation. As the evergreen trees thinned out, Mt. Adams came into view.

Mountain biking near Mt Adams in the Cascade Mountains

As we got about as high and gone as far as we were going to go on this day’s ride, we got a good look at Mt. Adams. Nearly all the snow has melted and the glaciers are looking very small on the black south face of the mountain.

There were a lot of animals running around the mountains. Even though we take precautions with our food and trash, we still have unwanted interactions with some of the wildlife.

Mouse trap

On the other hand, there were a lot of butterflies hanging around the camp. Apparently, there is something in worn, sweaty bike clothing that attracts them. Sometimes, they would land on your arm or leg, you had to be careful not to instinctively swat them.

Cascade Mountain butterfly

One evening, this small herd of cattle moseyed right through the campsite. We saw a lot of cattle on this trip to the mountains.

Small herd of cattle moseys through mountain bike camp

Feeling pretty good, we decided to take a long ride up the mountain to a distant trailhead of a long downhill singletrack trail. Even though we got an early start on the day’s ride, by the time we reached about 4000′, it was already getting hot.

Mountain biking near Mt Adams in the Cascade Mountains

We reached the trailhead just as my legs were starting to give out from the consecutive days of mountain riding. From the trailhead, we got another good look at the south face of Mt. Adams, almost totally devoid of snow.

Mt. Adams in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

We turned the bikes downhill after couple hours of stiff climbing. This is what we come here for.

Most difficult mountain bike trail

Before dropping down the side of the mountain and into the forest, we rode through high alpine meadows and burned down trees.

Mountain biking through an alpine meadow near Mt Adams

This trail does not get a lot of use due to the long climb needed to get there, but it was in perfect condition today. It was a great, flowing trail, but you had to be alert because there were some technical sections that come up quickly. This is a remote trail, not a place you want to get hurt.

A rocky section of trail in the Cascade Mountains

I use a Garmin GPS, which works pretty well. I still carry a compass because the GPS is not always 100% correct.

Compass used by

There were a number of blown down trees from the recent storm. It’s going to be a while before the trails are clear again, perhaps not before winter knocks down even more trees.

Blown down trees blocking the Cascade Mountain trail

There are a couple water crossings on this trail. Not that big of a deal in the middle of summer when the streams are barely flowing.

Water crossing on Cascade Mountain trail

We crossed over to a trail that we had ridden before. This is one of our favorite trails and it was in perfect condition. This trail runs along a good size creek and has many waterfalls. In the deepest part of the forest, the scenery is spectacular.

Deep dark Cascade Mountain forest

It was our last day to ride. The trails were starting to dry out a bit, still pretty perfect. We were out of food and the legs were somewhat heavy from all the alpine bike riding. It was Friday, the weekend would surely bring an end to the perfect conditions when horseback and bike riders hit the trails.

Last morning of riding at the Cascade Mountain bike camp

Yesterday’s long uphill climb left the legs a little sore, so we decided to ride across the mountain instead of up. The sun is getting lower in the sky, leaving some forest trails almost dark as night, even during the day.

Dark Cascade Mountain bike trail

There was plenty of prime singletrack to be ridden.

Cascade Mountain singletrack trail

There were a number of side trails that were not on the map, probably game trails or trails made by cattle. Some of these trails led to some great spots, well off the main trail.

Cascade Mountain waterfall

Another day of great mountain bike riding on perfect Cascade Mountain trails. The trails we rode today were mostly in the forest, much cooler than riding the more barren higher altitudes.

Sunlit Cascade Mountain forest trail

This trail has a number of log bridges that cross deep ravines and fast flowing mountain streams.

Log bridge on a Cascade Mountain trail

On the last stretch of trail leading back to the camp, I rode over a trail I had ridden on the first day we were here, nearly a week ago. There was only one set of tracks on the trail and they were my bicycle tracks from five days ago. Not another bike, man or animal had been on the trail since then.

Bike tracks on a Cascade Mountain trail

And that was a wrap for a fantastic week of mountain bike riding in one of the most spectacular places in the country. We could not have asked for better conditions. We did a lot of riding, saw a lot of cool things, nothing broke and nobody got hurt. An amazing week of mountain bike riding, hope to be heading for new trails soon!

Aug 102019

A couple of calm wind days appeared with a blistering heat wave that sent temperatures into the high 90’s, but we take any calm days we can get, so off we go to eastern Washington kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River.

This is a spot of historical significance. It is a lot different than it was back then because of all the dams, but we are paddling our kayaks on the same river as Lewis & Clark.

Paddling the same Columbia River as Lewis & Clark with

With the normal west wind off the Pacific Ocean switched around to an easterly afternoon breeze, we were able to fish in a few different spots that are harder to get to with a west wind. Paddling a few miles into a stiff west wind is not something you want to do after a full day of kayak fishing. With the hot weather and possibility of afternoon wind, we were on the river and fishing in the cool, calm early morning well before sunrise. When the sky is red in the morning this time of year, it means it is going to be very hot.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River on a hot summer moorning with

By the time the sun peeked over the dry eastern Washington hills, we had paddled a couple miles and caught a few fish. The calm and light east wind allowed us to paddle further upriver.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River at sunrise with

The kayak fishing conditions on the Columbia River in the early morning were just about perfect and the smallmouth bass were biting. About as good as it gets. The fish could be bigger, but we always say that.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught at sunrise by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

There was a lot of kayak fishing action. A few bigger fish, a bunch of one pounders and lots of small bass looking to get bigger by eating anything that moves.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with

The smallmouth bass were very active. They could be caught close to shore or in deeper water where they usually head in summer when the river water gets warm. There were spots you could get a strike on every cast. The bass were coughing up crayfish. If you had a lure that looked like one you were in business.

Smallmouth bass over the rocks in the Columbia River

For two days the smallmouth bass fishing was great. Caught lots of fish and did a lot of paddling with the calm conditions. The river is starting to get slimed with green algae making it tough to fish, this may be as good as it gets this summer.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with

We wanted to fish another day or two, but there were a bunch of sketchy looking characters, most likely tweakers, in the parking lot. Vehicle break ins and theft, once rare at these remote boat launches and trailheads, is now a regular occurance, especially on weekends. This place is a long way from anywhere and there is sketchy phone coverage. Nobody is going to help you, you’re on your own and you must make smart decisions. The conditions were excellent and the fish were biting, but the red lights were flashing so we packed up and headed home. That’s the way things are in a rapidly changing area of the Pacific Northwest. Good news is there are plenty of other fishing spots and we are out looking for them.

The beginning of fall salmon fishing season is almost here. Usually, there is a lot of excitement and anticipation this time of year, but this time around, it’s more like anxiety and apprehension. We’ll see soon enough.

Jul 272019

After the increasing wind put an end to a successful kayak fishing trip on the Columbia River, we headed north to do a little kayak fishing at Goose Lake in the Cascade Mountains. It’s been a few years since we’ve gone fishing at Goose Lake. This time of year is usually not the best time for fishermen but we decided to have a look.

As expected, with the warm weather we’ve been having, the mountain snow pack is down to the glaciers so the seasonal snow melt fed streams are running dry. There is not much water coming into Goose Lake so the water level is very low. Goose Lake is not a large lake to begin with, not much left this time of year.

Low summer water level at Goose Lake in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

Just like a lot of the other “natural beauty” around this part of the country, Goose Lake can look like the middle of nowhere, but much of it is man made. The lake has no native fish but is stocked by Fish & Game several times a year. If you go fishing a day or two after being stocked, you can catch fish on every cast from the boat launch. For a small lake, there is good deal of fishing pressure and the stocked fish get caught up pretty quickly. The fishing for the two days we were there was pretty good. Maybe I just had the lucky lure. One small cutthroat trout and the rest were stocker clone rainbows.

Kayak fishing at Goose Lake Washington with

Like other spots in this area, Goose Lake is one of those places that has become a popular weekend camping/fishing destination. On nice summer weekends and many weekdays, the place is packed with weekend warriors from the rapidly expanding Portland/Vancouver metro area. It seems more like a Portland city pond than a Cascade Mountain lake. It’s not a big area and it seems overrun. There were some pretty sketchy people there that did not look like recreational campers. Even though it’s taking a beating, Goose Lake still has it’s moments.

A cloudy morning kayak fishing at Goose Lake Washington

That wraps up what is likely our last trip to Goose Lake for this year. We probably should have come here a bit earlier in the season. Have to follow the trout stocking truck next year and beat the crowd!

Jul 272019

The Columbia River area wind has not been kind to kayak fishermen this smallmouth bass fishing season. There have only been a very few calm days where we have been able to get out on the Columbia River to go fishing. Whenever we’ve been able to go fishing, the fishing has been pretty good. Still looking for that big 20″ trophy smallmouth, but it’s been a while since I caught a really big fish.

Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing spots on the mid Columbia River are also the most windy so whenever the wind is predicted to be moderately calm, it’s a call to make a seventy five mile drive to go fishing. We lucked out and were able to get two and a half days of fishing with good conditions between wind events. It was really hot here in eastern Washington in the afternoon and the smallmouth bass will bite day or night, so we got an early start to the fishing day by the light of the moon when the wind was most calm.

Kayak fishing before sunrise on the Columbia River in eastern Washington

It was a little more than a half moon, and with the rising sun in the east, it was light enough to see by 5 AM. We knew our fishing time would be limited by the afternoon wind, so we were on the water well before sunrise. By the light of the moon there was plenty of fishing action. We caught the biggest smallmouth bass of the fishing trip just before sunrise each day so it was worth getting up early and getting out there. It was also nice and cool on what would be a swelteringly hot summer day.

Pre dawn Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

As the sun came up the fishing remained hot and we caught a lot of smallmouth bass. Most of them were “one pounders”, but we did catch a number of bigger fish. Smallmouth bass are great fighters and it always seems like there should be a bigger fish at the end of the line. Even the small bass put up a great fight.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with

The water temperature of the Columbia River, especially the side bays and shallow sections is warm and getting warmer. That means the smallmouth bass are moving to deeper water and the river vegetation is taking over. There is the usual seaweed, but the real problem is slimy green algae that is covering just about everything under the water. If your lure touches anything, it’s coated with algae and the fish won’t bite.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with

As the sun rose on another still very long PacNW summer day, it got really hot, into the low 90’s. The fishing was still good until late in the afternoon when the wind usually picked up and made the fishing more difficult.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Even during the windy afternoon, the fishing was still pretty good. When you’ve already had a long day of kayak fishing, you don’t want a mile long paddle against a 10-15 mph wind back to the launch. Good fishermen always want to try “one more cast”, but it’s time to get back to camp, get hydrated and something to eat so we can do it again early tomorrow morning.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with

As the weekend river goers packed up their fishing rods and pool toys, we packed up and left the hot, windy Columbia River and headed towards the Cascade Mountains and Goose Lake.

Jul 272019

We here at travel to some pretty remote places looking for fishing spots and places to ride bikes and we encounter a lot of wildlife. Deer, elk, coyotes, cougars, bears and many smaller mammals, birds and reptiles. We take precautions with food and trash to not attract any of these wild creatures but it seems we are constantly under attack by wild field mice. Mice have gotten into the cab and camper shell of my truck a number of times and caused damage from chewing and made a big mess for such a small animal.

I made a few simple and inexpensive modifications to my vehicle, a 2005 Toyota Tacoma, to keep the mice out of the cab and engine of my truck. Most vehicles will have a similar layout, this article is just to give you the general idea of what to do.

You will need some hardware cloth. It’s the screen material used to keep small animals out of gardens. I used 23 ga. 1/4″ mesh screen. Don’t use window screening because it may get clogged with dirt and block air flow. You will also need wire cutters to cut the screen material and maybe a few zip ties.

We will use the hardware cloth to block openings from the vehicle interior to the outside. The main opening is the vent that supplies air to the vehicle interior. Usually, it is under the hood, perhaps near the windshield wipers like it is on my Tacoma truck.

Cabin air intake vent on a 2005 Toyota Tacoma

Measure the vent and cut the hardware cloth to size. It doesn’t have to be exact because we will bend the screen over the edges of the vent. I like to leave the mesh of the screen intact if possible.

Cut hardware cloth to the size of the cabin air intake vent

Place the screen over the vent and do some creative bending to fit the vent without leaving any gaps or holes. Mice can get through the smallest openings. Bending the screen over the vent was fairly secure, but I used a couple zip ties to be sure the screen stays in place.

Rodent proof screen cover for cabin air intake vent

While I had everything I needed, I made a screen cover for the air intake vent of the truck engine. This is a vent from the outside of the vehicle, behind the grill or over a wheel well, that supplies air to the engine. A mouse crawled in here and made nest next to the air filter, blocking the air and making the truck run poorly. I cut and bent the hardware cloth to fit over this air intake and secured it with zip ties to prevent any further mouse nesting in the truck engine.

Rodent proof screen cover for engine air intake vent

Not only will these modifications keep rodents out, they will also keep leaves, pine needles and debris from clogging the ventilation system. Of course you have to be sure to close your vehicle doors or the mice will simply enter through the open door.

Jul 082019

We’ve given up on fishing days due the non-stop Columbia River wind and have started looking for fishing hours. Some days the wind is non-stop, other days the wind might be calm around sunrise for a few hours or die down just before sunset. You have to take what you can get around here. Depending on the exact direction of the wind and your location on the river, there can be some wind shadows.

This is a nice fishing spot on the Columbia River in eastern Washington. It’s not very busy during the week but this is the local swimming hole for the local rural communities, so the weekends are busy. July 4th is the unofficial beginning of summer in the Pacific Northwest, there is a marked increase in the crowds at popular recreational areas.

Columbia River kayak launch in eastern Washington

Kayak fishing opportunities have been few and far between lately, so when a rare, moderately calm wind day appeared, we were on it before the crack of dawn.

Kayak fishing at dawn on the Columbia River in eastern Washington

As it seems to be most of the time, the smallmouth bass fishing early in the morning was pretty good. As was the case the last time out, many of the smallmouth bass were on the small size. Even the small fish are aggressive, a six inch bass will try to eat a four inch lure. This bass was a good size fish, but it must have been a female that had just laid all of her eggs, otherwise it would have been a lot fatter. I caught several fish like this.

Early morning Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

The Columbia River Gorge is a natural wonder, but what you see today has been dramatically influenced by the hand of man.

Kayaking through a culvert on the Columbia River

Each day we were blown off the Columbia River by noon. As long as we could find shelter from the wind, there was plenty of kayak fishing action.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River with

Every once and a while, a nicer bass would take the lure so it wasn’t always smaller fish. Quarter pounder or twenty inch trophy bass; you never know.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

This was our first time fishing here, there was a lot of interesting stuff going on besides the smallmouth bass fishing. There was some weekend wild life in the parking lot and some wildlife down by the river.

Deer on the Columbia River in eastern Washington

With the 4th of July week over, all we need now is a few calm days. By “calm”, I mean less than double digit wind speed. It’s already July and we’ve only been fishing a few times. Between no salmon and the endless wind, it’s getting tough to be a kayak fisherman around here. Maybe it’s a sign that I need to work on the largemouth bass kayak fishing video from the past winter…