Jun 252019

Wind, wind and more wind has been killing the kayak fishing season, so it’s more mountain biking in the Cascade Mountains. This area is an amazing place, so much to see and do. Stay away from the more popular areas, especially on weekends, to experience one of the last wild places in the lower forty eight United States.

We made it about 200′ off road before we had to stop. Nothing major, but a reminder to put the ax in the truck. You’re on your own here.

Downed tree across the Forest Service road

Even though it’s late June and the weather has been pretty nice by Pacific Northwest mountain standards, mornings are cool with heavy mist or light rain possible. It warms up quickly as the sun comes up, but still cool in the deep forest shadows.

A cool, misty June morning in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

The first place we camped, the roads up the mountain to the top were extremely steep. It was all lava gravel so it was like riding on ball bearings. The climbs eventually were too steep for me to ride. Judging by the skid marks in the gravel, it looked like 2WD vehicles were having trouble as well.

An extremely steep lava gravel road in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

We moved deeper into the National Park where there are very few people, looking for a bit more moderate climbing effort. Exploring is what we are here to do, so we drove around a bit looking around. We want a place where we can ride a number of roads and trails. Solar exposure is great, here in the PacNW, you take what you can get. Park the truck and don’t start it up until we leave. We came here to ride bikes.

Mountain bike camping in the Cascade Mountains with watermanatwork.com

This spot turned out to be a great area for camping and riding. There are a number of Forest Service roads that go around and up the mountains with plenty of side roads to check out. There are still steep sections on the mountain roads, but having to push the bike a little is pretty much par for the course.

An opening in the dense forest in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

These are the headwaters of a number of Washington rivers that eventually empty into the Columbia River. The warming weather melts the winter snow pack on nearby Mt. Adams and the ice cold water begins the trip down the mountains to the Columbia.

Cascade Mountain creek

The mountain creeks turn into mountain rivers as they wind their way down the mountains.

Cascade Mountain river

The wildlife is very active this time of year. Deer with new born young are everywhere. I saw a bear while out riding this week and saw another one a couple weeks ago, not far from here. There were elk across the road from the campsite making all kinds of noise all day long. Hardly any mosquitoes and lots of butterflies.

Cascade Mountain butterfly

Best of all, on top of all the great gravel and dirt road riding, there is some pretty nice singletrack that doesn’t see many riders. The trails usually cut between sections of road. Riding up the road and down the trail is usually the best way to go. The scenery is the Best of the PacNW.

Picture perfect Cascade Mountain singletrack

These trails are a long way from anywhere. We’re here too have fun, but have to ride reasonably because getting hurt or damaging your bike have real consequences out here.

Steep Cascade Mountain singletrack with tree roots

Another great mountain bike expedition. Found cool new places to ride and camp, did a lot of riding, the weather was pretty nice and we found new places to check out. It looks windy for the next week, so we are back on the trail(or road).

Jun 192019

Since I have recovered enough from injuries I suffered when a semi rear ended me, I am grateful to be able to ride a bicycle again. Not only will getting back to riding help improve any structural damage suffered by being hit by a fully loaded semi and improve cardiovascular fitness lost after being immobile for nine months, but riding, especially out in the woods, gives me a chance to pound out my frustration and gives me a chance to think without daily distractions.

Mountain biking in the Cascade Mountains

We are fortunate to live in one of the best places in the United States for bicycle riding(except in the winter). There are miles and miles of dirt and crushed lava rock Forest Service Roads and old logging roads. It’s perfect conditions for training; above 3000′ and plenty of climbing. It is the mountains after all, there is very little flat terrain.

Lava rock gravel road in the Cascade Mountains

Some of the climbs are miles long. Some roads are not as steep as others so you may have to pedal a little further, but the grade is not as steep. We need to ride up towards Mt Adams where there are plenty of roads and trails to explore.

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

Mt Adams is in a Wilderness Area so there is no mountain biking allowed. This is about as far as you can go on a bicycle. Mt Adams is in the distance, below it is the dark colored Aiken Lava Bed, an ancient lava flow from when Mt Adams was active. Below the lava field is a burn area from a more recent wildfire.

Mt Adams and Aiken Lava Bed in central Washington

This area has a long history of logging. Since a lot of it is National Park, there is not much logging here, but the surrounding area is owned by timber companies, so there is still active logging. Some of the old logging roads are still here and have not been traveled on in years.

Old logging road in the Cascade Mountains for mountain biking adventure

When you take these roads to nowhere, make sure you and your gear is 100% in order. Nobody is going to find you and there is no phone coverage.

There are also singletrack trails. These trails range from “brand name” mountain bike trails to paths through the forest made by wild hooved animals or horses. These trails are challenging and fun, but ride well within your limits because it’s a long way out.

Mountain biking Cascade Mountain singletrack

Closer to the snow covered mountain peaks, the seasonal streams are still running. In another month, this stream will be completely dry.

Creek crossing a seasonal Cascade Mountain stream near Mt Adams

The snow on Mt Adams is melting and it is melting fast. Photos from just a few days apart show how much snow melts in a short period of time. Soon, the snow pack will be down to the glaciers.

The rapidly melting snow pack on Mt Adams in central Washington

This is about as close to nature as you can get these days. There is always something interesting to see in the mountains and things are always changing.

Cascade Mountain flowers

Not sure where this road goes, but it’s in a pretty remote area. I think we can check this road out next time.

Remote Cascade Mountain road near Mt Adams

Like the saying goes “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone”, the time off the bike has made me miss riding and I am stoked to be back in the saddle. All these roads and trails, 100% free. You should go riding.

Jun 192019

The seemingly endless wind of the Columbia River Gorge and surrounding vicinity finally eased up for a few days so we were back kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River as soon as the wind stopped. That happened early in the morning as we paddled out to see a sight we have not seen in weeks; a calm Columbia River.

Sunrise over a calm Columbia River kayak fishing for smallmouth bass

The first day of kayak fishing conditions was classic Pacific Northwest; 45° at sunrise, 85° at sunset. Bring all your outdoor clothing. There is still snow melt running into the Columbia, but it’s warming up. Warmer water means more seaweed, we’ll see how that goes this summer. Relatively few weeds to deal with. Rocks are always covered with algae or moss, so you must get close to the rocks, but not touch them. The fishing action was definitely better in the morning and tapered off in the afternoon.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

The good news is that the smallmouth bass were biting and we caught a lot of fish. The not so good news is that most of the fish were small. A ton of bass between half a pound and a pound. Regardless of the size, smallmouth bass are aggressive and always put up a good fight.

We use 7’0″ spinning rods and lightweight reels, but use a bit heavier line because of the rocks and snags. Usually, 12-14lb. test mono. You don’t need miles of line on the reel because you can move the kayak if you are in danger or getting spooled. 1/8 oz. lead head pumpkin seed grubs are working well because they look like the crayfish the smallmouth bass are feeding on. Whether the bass is five pounds or a half pound, the lightweight setup makes it fun.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

I did catch a few bigger bass, which keeps you on your toes when you think all you are catching half pounders.
The smallmouth bass spawning is over and the river is full of baby smallmouth bass. Those mini bass will grow quickly and in a couple months be chunky smallmouth bass.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

After a great few days of fishing and paddle-up camping, the wind has returned and shut down the kayak fishing on the Columbia River. Can’t help but remember the fantastic conditions and great fishing until we can get out there again.

Glassy Columbia River kayak fishing in eastern Washington

As soon as the wind calms down, we are back on the river. We found a new spot to launch and hoping there will be some fishing action there so check back soon.

Jun 042019

This is the first time, since being involved in a serious vehicle accident with a 40 ton semi truck, I’ve been able to get back on the bicycle and out on the trail. I haven’t been off a bicycle for nine months in many years. Even though I am still dealing with lingering injuries from the accident, at least I can ride.

Early morning bike check in the Cascade Mountains

We were riding some of our favorite roads and trails in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This is a great place to ride, one of the few remaining wild places in the lower United States.

Cascade Mountain bicycle riding

Gifford Pinchot National Forest surrounds the Cascade Mountains, many of which are active volcanoes. Here is Mt. Adams.

Mt. Adams in central Washington

You can see a number of snow covered Cascade Mountain peaks from the same spot, including Mt. St. Helens. Mt. St. Helens is easily identified due to the flat mountain top, blown off by the 1980 volcanic eruption.

The flat top of Mt. St. Helens

There was a large fire in this area a couple years back. The area is fairly inaccessible, so the fire burned a lot of timber.

Wildfire burn area in Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Mt. Adams

It takes a number of years, but nature eventually is restored to it’s previous state. Harvesting timber or burned up in wildfires, the forest is gone one way or another. Careful management and preservation of precious natural resources is required.

Wildfire burn area in Gifford Pinchot National Forest

The weather is nice, the scenery is spectacular and the roads and trails lead to all kind of interesting places.

Cascade Mountain bicycle riding

Always glad to be out bike riding. I’m shutting down the computer, packing up the truck and heading back out on the trail!

Jun 042019

Ever since being involved in a serious vehicle accident where I was hit from behind by a 40 ton semi doing 50mph while stopped for a construction zone flagman, my physical activities have been limited due to injuries sustained in the wreck.

As you might imagine, being hit by a semi truck is quite a shot. An NFL player is out for the season after being hit by a 290 pound guy running 5mph, I was hit by 80,000 pounds moving 50 mph! I suffered a concussion when I was knocked out by the impact and a number of injuries to my neck, back, hips and legs.

To make matters worse, much worse, both my insurance company, Progressive Insurance and the truck driver’s insurance company, Starr Indemnity & Liability Company, refused to pay for any medical expenses or damage resulting from the accident. You can see more details about the accident here, but the accident left me injured and essentially bankrupt.

Anyway, back to the biking. Injured, broke and winter arriving in the Columbia River Gorge, I headed to the Arizona desert to try and regain my health without any money for medical treatment of any kind. I needed decent weather so I could rehab my injuries.

For about a month following the accident, I could not do much of anything. I was in pain all the time with only OTC ibuprofen to take the edge off. I could only sleep a few hours a night because of the pain. It took everything I had to retain a positive attitude after what had happened to me.

After a couple months, I was able to start walking. Slowly at first, the first couple weeks I was only able to walk about a quarter mile or so. Since I was able to walk more than twenty miles before the accident, seeing how badly I was injured was pretty depressing. All I could do was get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other.

One foot in front of the other for desert rehab for injuries sustained in a semi truck accident

Slowly, I was able to increase the distance I was able to walk. Exercise during the day meant pain at night, but I did not have many options. Getting up in the morning was very painful. It took about an hour just to loosen up to move around. A couple times, I lost all feeling from my lower back down. I had to go to the ER, they told me there wasn’t much they could do. That was very scary, not being able to feel my legs. All I could do was keep walking and hope for the best.

Walking is desert rehab for injuries sustained in a semi truck accident

In addition to walking, I also included stretching and strength training to the rehab regimen. Stretching, especially for my lower back, hips and legs, was a daily routine. Push ups, jumping jacks and low weight, high repetition exercises; all part of the program. It worked for the Marines, I was sure it would work for me.

Exercise and stretching is desert rehab for injuries sustained in a semi truck accident

After seven long months, I am able to ride a bike again. Bike riding is a big part of my life and this is a very important step on the comeback trail. I estimate that I am about 30% of what I was before the accident. All the doctors said it would be a long recovery, they were right. At least I’m back in the saddle and back on the road.

Jun 042019

We’ve been facing some tough kayak fishing conditions on the Columbia River looking for the smallmouth bass. It has been very windy, double digit wind speeds just about every day. The Columbia River Gorge is one of the windiest places in the United States, but even here you get a relatively calm day once and a while. Throw in a few random rain showers and it makes for challenging kayak fishing conditions.

Rain is not a big problem, especially since it’s not really that cold, but the wind can be dangerous. Here on a cloudy John Day River, it looks pretty calm, but an hour later, the wind was blowing 15mph. You really have to pay attention to the wind in a fishing kayak.

A cloudy morning on the John Day River

We’ve stopped hoping for a calm day on the Columbia and will now settle for anything under 10mph. Not ideal fishing conditions, but if we wait for a calm day, we might not be doing much fishing at all.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

The smallmouth bass fishing has been pretty good whenever we’ve been able to make it out. No big fish so far, but a lot of hard fighting “one pounders”. The sun came out for a couple seconds when I took the photo, but the rain resumed shortly thereafter.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

We are trying every spot on the Columbia River that you can launch a kayak. Some of the places are pretty rugged, not only for the kayak, but for the truck getting to some of the more remote spots. Once and a while you get a rare “paddle up” camp spot, which is pretty cool.

Eastern WA kayak fishing camping with watermanatwork.com

We are waiting out another windy few days, but we know the fishing is good so we will be back on the river as soon as the wind calms to non life threatening levels so check back soon.

May 142019

The weather was exceptionally warm and sunny as we arrived back in the Columbia River Gorge in the Pacific Northwest. As always, we were ready to get out on the Columbia River and start looking for those big springtime smallmouth bass. The temperature was mid-summer but the wind was mid-spring; windy almost every day.

The wind died to manageable for kayak fishing for a couple days so we were out on the Columbia long before the sun came up, anxious to get into the smallmouth bass. We caught a number of decent sized smallmouth bass on the first few casts, about an hour before sunrise. Since we were catching fish on the first few casts, we were pretty optimistic about how the first day of smallmouth bass fishing was going to go.

First 2019 Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Unfortunately, our early luck did not hold up for most of the rest of the day, only picking off a few more fish here and there, maybe catching about eight fish all day. We called it a day about noon, packed up the gear and headed to another spot, hoping for better luck.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

We were back on the water at a different spot the next morning. After a couple hours of fishing and only a couple real small bass to show for it, we started to wonder what was going on. We got out the thermometer and found the river water temperature was in the very low 50’s. The Columbia River is usually warmer this time of year, but heavy late season snow has the rivers still running with snow melt. The spot where we caught the smallmouth bass is as far from any Columbia River tributaries as you can get, the spot we were at was only a couple miles downstream from a major tributary. A degree or two in water temperature makes the difference for the fish being active or not.

The wind has come back with gusto and we are getting what we hope are the last few rainstorms of the winter rainy season, so it will be a few more days before we will be able to get back out on the river. Another season of weird weather is off and running, we’ll be out fishing whenever we get the chance so check back soon!

May 042019

When the daily temperature in the Arizona Desert starts hitting 100° on a regular basis, we have to pack up the watermanatwork.com expedition vehicles and head north to our home in the Pacific Northwest.

We’ve had some good fishing days and caught some big largemouth bass. It seems like there were more windy days than usual and there was a spell of cold river water that put a chill on the fishing. The days when the water temperature was above 60°, you could usually catch fish. Some days are better than others, for sure, but on average, the fishing is usually pretty good.

We headed out into the desert to wait out a few days of wind and get everything ready for one last all out kayak fishing assault, throw the gear in the truck and head back to the Columbia River Gorge.

Desert kayak fishing adventures with watermanatwork.com

The desert in the Colorado River watershed is a bit cooler than the surrounding desert, but there are also a lot of mosquitoes. Between sunrise and sunset, you must be inside mosquito netting, use repellent, or get eaten alive. Out in the real desert, most of the bugs are flies and they disappear around sunset. No bugs and just about perfect weather is very nice.

A beautiful 100° afternoon in the Arizona desert.

The conditions were not ideal for the last few days of kayak fishing on the Colorado River. It was hot, near or at 100° and the wind would pick up suddenly in the early afternoon and quickly increase into double digit wind speed. We got an early start to try and beat the afternoon wind and heat. As is usually the case, the fishing early in the morning is pretty good.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River with watermanatwork.com

We caught a lot of fish in the last few fishing days. Not any really big bass like we were catching a few weeks ago, but a lot of one to three pound fish with a few bigger ones here and there. Overall, there was a lot of kayak fishing action.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

One afternoon, we were chased off the river by a storm cell rolling across the desert. It went from a beautiful 95° sunny day to thunder, rain and 30 mph wind.

Desert storm approaching the watermanatwork.com kayak fishing camp

After a wild and windy night, by 4:30AM the wind had died down and we headed out on the dark Colorado River for our last day of desert kayak fishing. The passing storm did not bother the largemouth bass and the fishing action started early.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River with watermanatwork.com

Just like the previous day, there was plenty of kayak fishing action. Mostly one to three pounders, some bigger, lots of great largemouth bass fishing. Even caught a few big crappie and a couple big, aggressive bluegill.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

I had to shave off my beard for the last day of fishing because I spent a little too much time wrangling largemouth bass out of the bushes and a bug, probably a spider, took a bite out of my face. Probably died instantly, but I had to lose the facial hair to administer first aid to the bite.

It’s always sad when a fishing trip comes to an end and the fish are still biting but that always makes us want to return to this great kayak fishing spot. The miracle “biggest fish on the last cast of the trip” didn’t happen, but we “left them biting” for sure.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River with watermanatwork.com

The wind picked up before noon on the last day of fishing so we packed up the truck, grimaced in financial pain at the latest price of gas and headed north. A couple days later we arrived at the “Kayak Gateway to the Pacific Northwest”, otherwise known as the State of Oregon Invasive Species watercraft checkpoint. All boats and personal watercraft, like kayaks, are required to stop and be inspected for invasive species.

Checking kayak for invasive species at Oregon watercraft inspection station

We are back home in the PacNW where our bodies are adjusting to the much cooler temperatures. The Columbia River is still a little cold for smallmouth bass fishing, but we will give it a try the first chance we get. Spring is a windy time in a very windy place so we’ll be looking to get out there in the next few days.

Apr 192019

With our time kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River is quickly coming to a close, the underlying story of the season has been the wind. There have been a lot of double digit wind days, that has taken fishing days off the calendar. It’s really tough when the fishing is good and the wind keeps you off the water. We’ve caught some big largemouth bass this season and lost more than a few more big ones, so one can’t complain too much. Unfortunately, this style of fishing and windy conditions don’t go well together. If we were trolling or drifting and casting, it would be a different story.

The desert springtime temperatures are crawling into the 90’s, getting a little hotter every day. When it gets close to 100° we will have to bail. That’s a little too hot for outdoor camping. The early mornings are just about perfect.

Kayak fishing at sunrise on the Colorado River with watermanatwork.com

If you follow this blog, you may already know that we here at watermanatwork.com like to get out on the water early. Because it’s too dark for the video cameras, that is an almost sure bet we will hook up with the fish of the day. That’s OK because I like to throw in a fill flash shot every now and then for my old friend Sonny Miller.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

In two days of serious fishing, we managed to catch a bunch of fish. The first day was a really good day, probably caught about fifteen largemouth bass. There were a couple three pounders, a couple three ouncers and the rest in between. Good kayak fishing action!

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River with watermanatwork.com

Once the sun comes up, it starts to get hot. Doesn’t seem like it on the river, but it is the desert after all. Seems like the fishing slows down in the heat of the day. Not always, but more often than not. If the fishing is good, or you know you won’t be fishing for a few days, you may stick it out because the thing about bass fishing is that you don’t catch anything until you do. You can catch a big bass anywhere, at any time of the day or night.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Fishing conditions will probably be marginal, but it looks like the summer is starting earlier and hotter than last year. That means we may have to settle for half days of fishing or less, but we came here to go fishing and that’s what we are going to do! Check back in a few days.

Apr 132019

We are back to dodging the desert wind here on the lower Colorado River, but we did manage to get a couple good days of kayak fishing in before the 20-30 mph wind started howling. The fishing conditions were pretty decent although the temperature was over 100°, pretty hot for sitting in a plastic tub baking like a loaf of bread.

We caught a good number of largemouth bass and farmed a bunch more. Overall, there was plenty of kayak fishing action. I even caught this pretty good size crappie. I caught four or five crappie that were about this size to keep the action going between largemouth bass.

Colorado River crappie caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Aside from a couple unusual springtime 100° days, the weather is really nice this time of year in the desert southwest. If the wind is calm, there can be some outstanding kayak fishing conditions with a lot of largemouth bass fishing action.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River with watermanatwork.com

Happy to report that the big Colorado River largemouth bass are still active and ready to bite. Most of the bass were “one pounders” with a few nicer fish and this bigger largemouth bass.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Our kayaks at watermanatwork.com spend a lot of time on the water and on the roof racks of the truck bumping across some rough terrain on the way to the water. The faithful Hobie Quest developed a crack around the center hatch a couple years ago and despite a couple repair plastic welding jobs, the crack continued to get larger until a chunk of plastic between the seat and the hatch broke off. On a windy day in the desert, I attempted another repair of this minor turned major crack. Using a Harbor Freight plastic welder and solar power, I did a major welding repair job.

Plastic welding repair of a large crack in the deck of a Hobie Quest fishing kayak

I did the best welding job I could and used JB Weld to fill a gap between the hatch and the repaired deck hatch flange to seal a small gap and hopefully, add a little strength. The crack formed because the kayak deck in front of the seat and behind the hatch is unsupported. The weight of the paddler and stress from getting in and out of the kayak eventually cracked the plastic. The Hobie Quest isn’t defective, it’s over ten years old and starting to show it’s age.

To help prevent the deck crack from returning, I stuck a basketball under the seat/hatch area to support the weight of the paddler and take the stress off the repaired deck. I left the basketball air valve accessible so I can adjust the amount of air in the ball. It’s supported the broken deck for awhile now, I hope it will continue to do the job and prevent the crack from reappearing.

Using air pressure in a basketball to support the Hobie Quest fishing kayak deck to prevent cracking around the hatch

The kayak is all fixed up and we are ready to get back on the water. We will be watching the wind very carefully because our winter largemouth bass kayak fishing trip is nearly over and we don’t want to miss a single day. Check back soon!