Tuesday, May 31, 2011


After the termination of Basstravagaza2010 I holed up in a cheap apartment in Ashland, OR, for the winter, planning for emigration back into Canada, and for Basstravaganza2011.

Please remember that:

1) You must sort thru the Blog Archive on the right side of the screen to view the post you want to see.
2) The posts are listed chronologically in reverse order in the Blog Archive (Google's way of doing it, not mine) so you have to start at the bottom and work to the top to view the posts in order.
3) You have to click on each image individually to make it large and clear.

A bit of warning in advance. Those blogoshperians who are only interested in bass fishing may want to skip over the 3 posts about my recent trip to Cuba. Number of bass hooked in Cuba: 0. Number of bass caught in Cuba: 0. But I had a heckuva time not catching any bass there.

As for me, I am officially moved back as a resident of Canada again. This barnstorming basstravaganza lifestyle is beginning to get me down. I need to find a place to settle down for a while and - terrifying as the thought is to contemplate - ponder gettinga a job and an income. If I get into any good fishing, or anything else exciting later this summer, I will try to post something about it. One thing I have learned is that it takes a massive investment of my time to produce these blogs. I have to make a choice. I can either have a life or have a blog, and as of now I choose to have a life. So I probably won't be posting much or often any more this year.

And for those who just cannot get enough basstravaganza, check out my last year's blog, Basstravagaza2010:


Basstravaganza 2011

After some balmy sunny weather during late January, the winter turned sour and nasty. A good time to spend working on boats and fishing tackle. The 2011 bass expedition essentially begins at Emigrant Lake near Ashland, OR, where I spent the winter. This is where the 2011 basstravaganza fleet first hit the water. For 2011 the fleet is expanded to three, lead by the flagship Bullship III, returned from an infamous 2010 expedition of raiding and pillaging across the inland bass waters of the US. An inflatable pontoon boat (identical to the one I had stolen at Williamson River a few years ago) will provide access to whitewater and also to places where there is no boat ramp to launch the Bullship. Finally, an inflatable kayak will accompany me on the plane to a place I have dreamed about fishing for decades – the island nation of Cuba.

The Bullship is much improvded. Now equipped with running lites and spotlite for night boating, new front storage compartment, battery cover so guests do not have to watch their pants dissolve from acid traces on the battery, cleaner wiring, and new improved mountings for sounder and transducer. In early March I make my first trip in the Bullship, to Emigrant, throwing spinnerbaits, jig'n'pig, yumworm, crankbaits, testing overhauled reels and lures. It is screaming windy and I get no bites. March continues hellishly awful. First time in over 100 years of history in Eugene that it all 31 days of the month.

Supposed to break to some good weather in early April I head for the coast. On the way I will try Lake Selmac west of Grants Pass. I get there at first lite.

This tiny lake has twice broken the state record for LM bass. The day breaks into a perfect morn, and I pound it with everything in my tackle box. No bites. My ancient little Eagle sounder is acting strange. By time I am load the boat out it is over 70F, and spring is here. Maybe the coast lakes will be better.

Next morning I launch at Cleawox Lake, one of many LM lakes in the Oregon dunes. The weather on the coast is nasty again. Drizzle, fog and wind. A local is casting from shore. Catches a couple planter RBs, says this is a good bass lake in summer. Too cold now. I launch and explore the entire lake, sounding for holes and bars, when the old Eagle – which I have had for at least 15 years – finally gives up the ghost and dies. The main body of the lake fronts on an open dune.

But there are secluded forested bays that look very bassy.

A tiny opening leads to a channel that extends for almost a mile and ends in a residential area.

Like the other time I came here, the lake looks very good. Last time, in Oct, I caught 1 small bass on a buzzbait early, and then never got another bite. Today I do not even get one bite. There are 4 wheelers roaring around all over the dunes, and I come upon a pack of them.

Next day I run down to Horsfall Lake near Coos Bay. Supposed to be a good bass lake. I will hike in ¼ mile from the parking lot with tent and pontoon boat, and then paddle up to one of the “sand campsites” in the dunes, where I can camp out and fish. My cousin Duke is caretaker of the nearby US Forest Service campsite. But when I get to the parking lot I cannot believe my eyes. The parking lot is surrounded by water.

The dunes are flooded.

No camping at Horsfall today, unless you want to sleep underwater with scuba gear.

The Sand Access Road which leads ATVs off into the dunes now looks like a boat ramp.

Hey – maybe I could launch the Bullship right off the parking lot and drive right up into Horsfall Lake?

The off-road vehicles raise hell with the ecosystem, carving the sand away from the last vegetation.

Duke is off in Florence for a medical appointment, so I head up the road to try Tenmile Lake, where I have done well in the past. More drizzle and wind. I pound the shoreline (hard to zone in on deeper areas without a sounder) all day, thru the channel into N Tenmile Lake. The train used to run along the lake until it was shut down a few years ago. Trestles like this would seem to offer ideal opportunity for a tourist steam train?

I fish hard all day until I get driven off the lake by driving rain in the afternoon. No bites. In the evening I head back down to Horsfall for a visit with Duke.

Next morn I launch the Bullship into the flooded dunes, after asking the caretaker there if it is OK. Nobody has ever tried this before. The water has never been this high before. I may be that no one has ever taken a motorboat this large into Horsfall Lake before.

The whole place is a maze of islets, channels, and pockets of open water. By zigzagging around I do indeed find my way to the sand access road across the outlet of Horsfall Lake, which was draining thru a big culvert under the road when I was here last in Jan. Now I can tilt up my motor and slide right over the road into the lake.

It is screaming N wind. No way to catch a bass in shallow water in this weather, so I don't even bring a rod along. I land on a flooded islet.

There is a nest on the other end of the islet with 3 ospreys hanging around.

2 of them find an updraft and disappear, while the other sits on the nest.

Soon one returns with a fat little bass in its talons.

This is embarrassing. I have tried 4 lakes already this year, and fished hard, without a single bite. And this bird catches one in 10 minutes during a hailstorm. When I get out into the main body of the lake my fantasies are crashed. A barbed wire fence, flooded now, runs right across the lake, full of signs. No Trespassing, No Hunting. NO FISHING.

I could easily slide in over the fence and keep exploring, but I do not want to trespass. I head back to the parking lot and load the Bullship back on the trailer. Another fantasy bass lake down the drain.

Not a productive trip to the coast – 4 lakes, no bites, no fish.

All winter I have been wanting to float the lower half of Bear Creek in my new pontoon boat, but not when it is flooded and dangerous to run. But it has been so rainy that the creek never seems to be at anything but near flood stage this year. I finally decide to run it anyway, and head downstream from the Wal Mart in Talent.

The creek is high and fast, with full spanning trees laying right across fast water, and deep fast water plowing right thru willow and bush thickets. Hard to get out in time to carry the boat around the bad spots.

After portaging around the Talent TID dam I am wading down, lining the boat down below me on a rope, when it jams into a willow thicket on the opposite bank. Pulling it back across the current only makes it flip over, and my camera (stored in a plastic peanut butter jar) gets wet. Further down I get swept into a bad spot, hung up on a submerged tree trunk in fast deep water, surrounded by branches of a leaning tree. Can't get loose, can't jump off without fear of getting sucked under a pile of limbs. Not fun. People die like this. I am shaking with a combination of fear and adrenaline when I finally get loose. I finally take out at the baseball park in Medford, and Frances, BCWC coordinator, gives me a ride back to my car. Enough of Bear Creek. I will run the rest of it some other day, when the water is lower and I do not fear for my life. I dry the camera out on the heater in my apt and it seems to work OK.

April 16
At 5 AM I move out of my apt in Ashland. A homeless person living in my car once again. I am heading N to Vancouver Island. Have already bought my tickets from Victoria to Toronto, where I will join the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade and then on to Cuba the next day. 2 weeks with the brigade, then another 10 days on my own to torment the wily Cuban bass in my inflatable kayak. Heading N I turn W at Portland out to Seaside and the coast. On the way I want to try Cullaby Lake, another LM lake in the dunes near Astoria. Arrive at Cullaby to a screaming NW wind. Before I launch I talk to a local, who says it is a good LM lake, very shallow and full of perch and crappie, and LMs over 8 lbs. Yesterday there was a bass tournament with a dozen boats (x 2 people per boat x 8 hrs = almost 200 man hours of fishing). They caught a total of 4 bass between all of them, = about 1 bass per 50 hrs of fishing. Not inspiring. I explore the lake and an interesting channel thru the dunes, connected to the lake and full of houses. A good looking lake on a horrid cold windy day. No bites.

That makes 6 lakes fished in Oregon this year, without a single bite from a fish of any kind. Time to blow this military criminal imperialist scene where the bass do not bite for me, and try another country.

April 18

I arrive in Victoria BC on the first ferry from Port Angeles. Spend an hour at Canada Customs where I declare that I am moving back to Canada. Then off to Canadian Tire to buy a fishing license, Tim Hortons to buy a ceremonial coffee & donut, and off to the nearest bass lake. Since I am on my way to Ucluelet on the W coast of the island I decide to try Langford Lake, which is just off the Island Hwy.

In all the dozen or so years I lived in or visited Oregon I caught one 18” SM there. It has been my custom for the past 4 or 5 years that I catch one at least this big within the first hour of hitting the water in Victoria. This cold and stormy spring, on this cold, showery and windy day, will put this tradition to the test. I launch the Bullship (electric motors only here!) and head down the W shore. No bites along the first good spot. Tough holding the boat in position in this wind, and I am killing the battery doing it. Over an hour has passed, my tradition is broken, when I get a bite. First one of the year. I know it was a bite, so I throw the worm back in and catch a small bass, about 1 ½ lbs. First bass of 2011. But my camera, which got dunked in Bear Creek, is toast. No pic of the first bass of Basstravaganza 2011.

After I wear out the trolling motor battery the weather improves, and I paddle over to the first island. I have to fish all around it before I get bit on the S side. A beauty 18.5” Langford Lake toad. But again, no camera. Mission Accomplished, I head back to the ramp, load the boat on the trailer, and take off for Ucluelet without making another cast.

In Ukee I visit with friends, get a Canadian bank account and mailing address, and watch the Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup playoff game. The Canucks – far and away the best team in the regular season - are ahead 3 games to none, and tied with Chicago 1-1 after the first period, when I go outside to call a friend in Victoria. By the time I get back to the game it is 3-1 Chicago, then 4-1, 5-1, 6-1, 7-1... What has happened to the mighty Canucks?

April 20
After a nice day of weather in Ukee (no rain!) I am hoping for good weather on the return trip, but April 20 dawns cloudy & cold. I buy a cheap camera in Port Alberni, and head over to Spider Lake.

Just as I get there a cold rain begins to fall. I set up the pontoon (no motors at all allowed here) and head out.

Spider Lake is a series of glacial potholes connected by gravel bars and separated by islets, and home many slab SMs. I position myself off the tip of an islet and throw in to shore, then must regain position in the wind with my oars. When I pick the rod back up there is a fish on. Big one. Spider Lake prespawn pig. No measurement, but at least as big as the fish from Langford. And this time I have a camera.

April 21
While attending Camosun College I helped plant trees on a restoration project along a sidechannel of the Cowichan River. An intake was built into the riverbank from where flow was withdrawn to water an artificially dug spawning and rearing channel that connected to a natural sidechannel. The intake was always a problem. Kept plugging up with driftwood in summer when the water was needed most. Salmon, especially cohos, would spawn in this channel, and the young would hatch in spring. Brown trout, which live in the river, would move up into the sidechannel to feed on the emerging salmon fry. It is not legal to fish in the artificial channel, but it is legal to fish in the sidechannel. I caught some nice brownies out of the old channel while at Camosun.

There is an old train trestle just above where the old intake used to be. While we worked on the restoration project we could drive in, but now I must park my car at Skutz Falls.

The falls look fast today. Don't want to run this spot in a boat unless you know what you are doing.

Then I pedal my bike about 5 miles up the old rail grade to get to the spot. I pass the road we used to take and ride right up to the trestle. There is a new sign there about the restoration project, which I see is much expanded now.

They have extended the new channel about another kilometer, so it ends right at the trestle now. And built a new bulletproof intake. The further up they got, the deeper they had to dig with the excavator. They had to cut through 2nd growth forest, and they laid all the trees they cut into the channel. Nobody going to be fishing in this channel – people, ospreys, otters.

I finally get to the older part of the channel, the part that existed when I was here last in the late 1990s. But it is still to shallow to hold big browns.

The deeper holes were down where it connected into the old natural side channel. There is no trail. I am crashing dense bush, carrying meoprene waders and fishing rod on my back. This is a pain. I think I may have passed the place where the first good hole used to be, but I am not sure. Been crashing bush for over an hour now. Why didn't I just pedal down the old road to the good spot, from where it is an easy walk? I sit on a big alder, wondering why there seem to be no beavers here. They used to be around here. Then I look at the other end of the log.

I keep on hiking another ½ hour, until I am sure that I passed the old good spots. But still no deep water. I finally give up and hike back up to the trestle in the rain, and bike back to the car. Not a productive day fish-wise, but good to see this project proceeding. When I get back I check in Google Earth. I was confused, and never made it up to the good spots. They look even better than before in GE, and it would have been a way shorter pedal to go down the old road. Never go fishing without checking your spot first in GE!

April 23

I head up island to fish Quennel Lake, my first favorite lake on the island. Hard to believe I have been fishing here for over 30 years now. It is a cold and squally day, fishing is poor, and I catch only 4. The biggest is about 17".

April 24 - 26

I am too busy to fish. Busy prepping for the big trip to the Island Nation. I have never taken a boat overseas to another country before. What to bring, and what to leave behind. Why didn't I spend more time studying Spanish? I am nervous, apprehensive.

On April 26 I leave my car, Bullship and pontoon boat in John M's back yard. Mike C picks me up  and I spend the nite at the C's,wondering what the future might bring.
April 27

Mike C drives me to the airport. The homeland security crew rob me of my Tim Horton coffee, target me as a suspicious looking potential terrorist, wipe me and my briefcase with gauze swabs that they run thru a fancy explosive testing rig (your tax dollars at work!) and we are off. I have a window seat, but it is cloudy all the way, except for a hole in the clouds over Okanagan Lake, and another over Edmonton, where we stop for fuel and more passengers. In Edmonchuck I am able to buy a Spanish/English dictionary and a bio of Che Guevara. Then we are off again. Still cloudy almost all the way – waste of a damn window seat. In the few open breaks I see that all the lakes across the prairies are still frozen over. Almost May. What is going on? Radically cold spring. Not likely that the lakes in Cuba are frozen.

Toronto is huge and sprawling. Don't to waste $150 on a motel for a few hours of sleep, so I buy a glass of beer ($11 plus tip), chicken and fries. Have not eaten anything all day but a T Horton donut. But I have too much adrenaline running to eat a full meal so I throw most of it away, while watching the Montreal Canadians blow the last game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Then read and sleep in the airport lobby till dawn.

Tomorrow I fly to Cuba.