After COVID had ruined a number of vacation plans that my girlfriend and I had, we were desperate to get out and do something fun. While perusing the "For Sale: Sporting Goods" section on the Bend Craigslist, I stumbled upon an ad for a bow building class in Chiloquin, OR. Having an interest in Native American culture and history of the High Desert tribes, I halfway jokingly mentioned it to Cheryl. To my surprise, she was interested and we decided to consider the bow building retreat despite neither of us having ever shot a bow.
As we got closer to the date of the retreat, I decided to call Dave Cheney, Owner of the Painted Bow Ranch (PBR) in Chiloquin, to get more information. His passion about bow building was contagious and the video below got me excited enough to sign up for the class. The course is Thursday-Sunday (4 days) and is held at Dave's beautiful property about 2 hours South of Bend.
We arrived at PBR on Wednesday night with just enough daylight left to set up our tent. Dave greeted us with his pup Tizzy and told us to be ready to go at 8am the following morning. We finished setting up camp and dug in for the night.
Billy Berger (@bigbad93) is a film maker, writer, archaeologist & primitive survivalist. He also starred in an episode of Naked & Afraid. Billy is good friends with Dave and he flew in from Georgia for our class. He is a primitive hunter and expert bow and arrow maker and flint knapper. Flint knapping is the making of flaked or chipped stone tools. With Billy's help, I was able to leave the course with 3 Obsidian arrowheads. We used copper tipped flakers and "boppers". I was surprised how much strategy, precision and planning it took to shape organic glass into a point. Essentially, you remove flakes to build ledges. The ledges allow placement of your tool so that you can use pressure to remove larger amounts of material. You flip your glass over often, building ledges on one side and then removing them from the other side. I got several cuts because the flaked Obsidian is so sharp.
With the bow and arrow now complete, I was ready to make my first shot. This would be my first shot ever with any bow let alone a hand built primitive Juniper long bow. The guys give me some pointers so I'd know what to expect. I pull back on a Rinehart 3D Pronghorn Antelope target and let it fly. A gut shot albeit but I was so proud to hit the target. My work was done except for shooting Dave's 3D target course a few times, swimming in the river nearby, making homemade sourdough pizza in the brick oven and breaking down my camp. Dave and Billy were great hosts and have opened my eyes to a more simple, or dare I say primitive, way of life and a newfound respect for those who lived and hunted these lands before us.
Bow Building Class 2021?
Leave a comment or contact me on social media if you'd be interested in attending a bow building class in 2021. We have the option to do it in Central Oregon on evenings and weekends or travel down to Chiloquin as a group to Dave's property. Cost would be $300-400 depending on what we choose to do. I will post updates as we get closer!
I’m writing this recap (one and a half years later) of my first ever saltwater fly fishing trip to provide an unbiased account for anglers who are considering booking the trip of a lifetime and also to provide some tips to get the most out of that trip. All photos in this thread were taken and edited by my good buddy Kyle Schenk. He is a terrific photographer and fisherman. He can be reached at: @bendflyguy, @troutdoorsmarketing and www.troutdoorsmarketing.com.
Booking: The trip was hosted by Fly & Field Outfitters through flywatertravel. Fly Water handled all of the transactions, reservations and trip documentation. They were great and really easy to work with. They send tons of people on this same trip every year and have it really dialed in. They send you a helpful folder with documents outlining travel info, gear lists, what to expect, etc. The trip was $2570.00 which included lodging, food, guides and on-island transportation. That did not include the flight to/from Honolulu ($500), hotel in Honolulu ($150), the flight to/from Kiritimati ($1100) or tips for the lodge staff and guides ($400-500). All in (assuming you have all of your gear), you’re looking at about $4500.00 for 6 days and 7 nights of premier guided saltwater fly fishing.
The Travel: Kiritimati (Pronounced Keer-iss-ee-muss, aka CXI) is a coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about 1350 miles South of Honolulu, in the Republic of Kiribati. To get there, I flew from Redmond to Seattle to Honolulu on a Monday. The Fiji Airlines flight flies from Honolulu to CXI every Tuesday so you spend the night in Waikiki and catch the flight the next morning. The big jet stops at CXI, drops it’s anxious anglers and all their gear, and then continues on to deliver the remaining honeymooners and elderly to Fiji. Once we landed, it was a long wait to get everyone past the single Customs Agent but once cleared, we were excited to find that all of our luggage had made it to the island. It was advised to carry on as much as you could. I carried eight rods and ten reels (not all mine) and some of my smaller flies. We were greeted by some of the lodge staff who helped load us up into open air trucks with benches in the beds and we were off to the lodge.
The Lodge: We stayed at Sunset Lodge. It’s dubbed Sunset Lodge because it’s on the West side of the atoll which makes for some amazing sunsets. The lodge consisted of four or five guest buildings, each of which had a screened porch, a room with two twin beds, an A/C unit and a small bathroom with sink and shower. Other buildings included a large communal area where we congregated with fish stories, ate meals and made plans for each day. The whole compound is gated with a local standing guard at all times. I never felt unsafe or worried about leaving things in my room. Food was decent and better than I thought it would be, considering the remoteness of the island. You fish so hard that I think anything would’ve tasted good after those long days. It is modest and comfortable accommodations and is by no means, a luxury vacation. Fly Water does a good job making that clear so you aren’t surprised when you get down there.
The Island: The island is very impoverished but it’s people are some of the friendliest I have met. I really enjoyed seeing the island and people from the back of our trucks as we were driving to the fishing grounds. We crossed paths with lots of kids because we were usually leaving for the day as they were on their way to school and then we'd see them again when we were all heading home for the evening. Most of them waved and yelled cheerfully at us. That was one of the highlights of the trip for me. There were some convenience stores near our lodge that we walked to. You could find ice cream, refrigerated drinks and snacks.
The Guides: Bita is the head guide who handles the guide assignments. We’d get together after dinner to discuss tides and make our plans accordingly. The guides operate on a two guest to one guide ratio unless you pay an additional $100 to get an extra guide. We did this a couple times and it is worth it to do so. If you split that cost with your partner, it ends up being $70/person which includes tip ($50+$20 tip). Some of the guides were definitely better than others. There were days where I, a first time flats angler, was spotting fish before my guide and other days when my guide was so good that he had me casting to fish that I never saw. It’s a known thing around camp who the best guides are and it can be difficult to get a day with them as they are in high demand. Max ended up being my favorite guide. I got to fish with him two or three times. He got me into Giant Trevally, barracuda and helped me feed my newfound triggerfish addiction.
The Gear: There is no gear at the lodge, or on the entire island for that matter. If you don’t bring something or you bring it and break it, you’re out of luck. Fly Water suggests you take an 8, 10 and 12 weight rod setup and a backup for each of those rods (6 rods total). I ended up taking two 8’s, a 10 and a 12 weight and didn’t have any trouble. I owned one 8 weight and rented the other three rods from @finandfire. They rented me a G Loomis Asquith, a Winston B3+ and a Scott Meridian, all with nautilus reels and Rio lines, for $300 total for the whole week. They really took care of me and this was a great option if you’re not quite ready to invest $5000+ in saltwater rods. I also brought several back up fly lines but didn’t end up using any of them. If I go again, I’ll go a little lighter; I’d take a 6 or 7 weight, an 8 or 9 and a 11 or 12. Fly Water provides a comprehensive packing list that covers rods, reels, lines, flies, clothes and other things for camp.
The Sun: The island is about 150 miles from the equator which means the sun is BRUTAL. The first day, I wore a sun hoodie with the sleeves rolled up to my forearms, Simms Ultralight pants, sunglasses, a baseball hat and applied Sun Bum 50 SPF sunscreen once or twice. My face, forearms and hands got burnt to a crisp and I paid for that the rest of the trip. I still have the tan line on arm as I'm writing this 1.5 years later. BRING A BUFF. I hate Buff's, especially with my beard but I wore one every day after that and didn’t get burnt again. Cover yourself head to toe. Buy the legit mineral/Zinc sunscreen and use it several times per day. My personal favorite is SPF 50 Zinc Oxide from Sun Bum. I also found Drip Drop electrolyte hydration powder sticks on Amazon which were lightweight in my pack and really helped with staying hydrated. Make sure you bring the water that they put in your room out with you for the day. They don't charge you for them and you're going to need them.
The Flats: We left the lodge everyday on trucks. We’d either drive to our fishing location or to a marina where we would board a boat that would take us to a flat. While there, I got to fish several flats (Paris, Texas, Orvis, and others). It usually took about 30 minutes from leaving the lodge to being in the water fishing. The flats were knee to belly deep and were expansive. It was a lot of fun to “hunt” for fish. You walk and stalk the flats all day. After the first day, the bonefish were relatively easy to spot and there were lots of opportunities for other species like triggerfish and Banded/Bluefin/Giant/Golden Trevally.
The Refuge: We spent two days at “The Refuge”. It‘s about a 1.5 hour drive to get to the refuge. Round trip is 3 hours so it's a big chunk of your limited time on the island. It’s a beautiful and very bumpy drive (bring a towel or something to sit on) but the fishing makes it worth it. Lots of opportunity for barracuda and Giant Trevally. I caught a #45 GT at Huff Dam. There is a manmade dam that milkfish get trapped behind. As the tide rises, the water will get high enough for the milkfish to spill over to the other side where the hungry GT’s wait for them. It was one of the highlights of my trip. My 12wt Winston was bent over for about 15 minutes before we brought it to hand. We also had lots of shots at Barracuda at the Refuge. The first day, we went without wire leader. The ‘Cuda bit through #60, #80 and #100 mono. The next time, we borrowed #100 wire from another angler and still got bit off. It was very exciting and I would spend more time targeting "The Wolf of the Flats" if I go again.
The Triggerfish: I saw triggerfish at about every flat we visited but didn't get a good shot at one until day three. That shot changed my focus for the rest of the trip. The triggers are about the size of a dinner plate and can be seen from about 100 yards. Because of this, the best spot and stalk opportunities are for these fish. As soon as they see you, they spook and flee the scene. If you can get within 30-50', you've got a shot. Unaware of your presence, they'll tail on some coral (similar to the photo below on the left) and you have to quickly place your fly to the side that they're moving - about 3' in front of them. If you're farther than that, they won't see it and if you're closer, they'll spook. And they spook easy. If you've landed your fly in the sweet spot without making too much of a splash, you'll let it sink to the bottom as the trigger continues to feed. As it moves towards your fly, you'll strip in 1" increments to get it's attention. Then you'll strip set and the fight is on! From there, you have to hope that it doesn't go to it's "home" in the coral and break you off or straight up bite through your hook (both of which happened to me). I hooked several triggers but didn't get to land one. "Spicy" Scott Cook was one of the few on the trip that brought one to hand - see his picture below.
Conclusion: If it's your first trip, enjoy the variety that CXI has to offer and touch every species you can! If it's not your first trip, spend your time targeting one of these three species - GT, 'Cuda or Trigger. For me, 100% and without a doubt or hesitation, if I go back, I will be after the fish that has the trigger protruding from it's head. Christmas Island offers a unique, budget friendly opportunity to target the saltwater species that us regular folk only see at the annual fly fishing film tours. It is definitely a trip that every fly fisherman or woman should do at least once in their fly fishing career. I had a great time and would love to go again, however there are a lot of other trips on my bucket list so it may be some time before I get back there. Some final thoughts:
Pack light - in terms of both weight and gear.
Don't go with expectations - Especially if it's your first trip.
Tell your guides what you want to target but go with the flow.
Enjoy the food, the locals, the guys or gals you're fishing with and the island.
Pack plenty of libations - cigars & alcohol. *Ask me how I got 3 cases of White Claw to this remote island.
Enjoy. It's a great saltwater trip for a first timer who is looking to break up the monotony of winter. You won't regret it.
After three or four weekends of hard and unsuccessful turkey hunting in Central Oregon, Cheryl and I decided to engage Fins & Feather's Guide Service to get us into some late season Thunder Chickens. We signed up for a 1-day hunt over the Memorial Day weekend with Head Guide and Owner Craig "Gus" Augustynovich. We drove about 3.5 hours to the recently constructed Fins & Feather's Lodge in Roseburg, OR. The lodging was incredibly comfortable and had one of the most impressive collections of taxidermy that I had seen. We ate dinner, got our gear ready to go and went to bed early after Gus casually mentioned that he wanted to be on the road at 3:30am.
3:00am came quickly and after some coffee, we were able to sleep-stumble into the truck by 3:30am. Gus has been hunting the Roseburg area for turkey, deer and elk for over 30 years and has access to what seemed like every piece of land in the area. Although the land we were hunting was mostly private, these properties were vast and we would soon find out that tricking a mature tom into the range of a shotgun would not be easy. We drove about 45 minutes to the first ranch and set up our first stand in a tree line overlooking a meadow. We didn't make a call until the sun was about to rise and we could hear birds starting to come down from the roost. Across the bowl about 200 yards away in a group of trees, a gobbler started sounding off. We began making hen calls and getting responses from him and another gobbler about 500 yards away directly to our right. We converse for a while with both birds until the one from the right comes into view and is standing right between us and the other gobbler. Instead of coming towards us for some potential love making, he turns and runs into the trees to get into it with the other gobbler. They stop talking to us despite our best efforts so we decide to change stands.
We set up and leave a few more inactive stands and at his point, it's about noon. It's 80-85 degrees and we're in full camo. We've been up and hunting for about 9 hours now. Gus is working his ass off to put birds in front of us but they're uncooperative. We're hot, sweaty, wet from sitting in damp grass, thirsty, tired, hungry and a little disheartened that we haven't had a shot at a bird despite talking to them all morning. Ken's Sidewalk Cafe was the perfect place for a break. Between the three of us, we had buffalo burgers, elk burgers, hand cut fries, milkshakes and the biggest sodas they had. After refueling, we head towards the next stand.
The hunt might be over, but the journey was not. We still have an hour drive back to the lodge and another 3.5 hour drive home to Central Oregon. After 13 full hours of hunting, the drive home sounds exhausting, but the adrenaline from our hunt is keeping morale high. We hustle back to the lodge, take care of our birds, shower off a thick layer of sweat, dirt and poison oak and we head home after a long, hot, hard and extremely satisfying day. My bird had the longer beard but hers had the longer spurs. We'll call it a draw.
Thank you to Fins and Feather's Guide Service for their hospitality and use of their incredible lodge and a huge thank you to Craig "Gus" Augustynovich for working so hard to make sure we were successful. He went above and beyond what should reasonably be expected from a guide. Gus' number is 541-974-6567. Through F&F Guide Service, he guides Columbia Blacktail and Whitetail, Sturgeon, Salmon and of course, the Rio Grande Turkey.
***UPDATE as of 4/25/19 - Sunday 5/5 is full and there are 4 spots available for Saturday 4/4***
I’ve booked 2 days of the finest varmint shooting Oregon has to offer for the first annual Oregon Outfitters Sage Rat Hunt with our friends at Diamond A Guides.
Diamond A Guides operate out of Crane, OR which is about 20-30 minutes southeast of Burns. We meet, stay and eat at Crystal Crane Hot Springs (address below). Nikki feeds us 3 hot meals a day and we hit the fields between meals with our guides.
I’ve been going on this hunt for the past few years and I look forward to it every spring. The fields are overrun with Belding’s Ground Squirrels AKA Sage Rats. Last year, we planted the platform trailer in one spot and did not move the entire day. From that spot, 6 shooters including myself were entertained for over 8 hours. I personally shot over 700 rounds of .22 and 17HMR that day which resulted in 500-600 dead sage rats. I mainly shoot a bolt action 17HMR rifle but I also usually take a 10/22 type rifle, a 22LR handgun for close shots and an AR-15 chambered in 22 Nosler. I normally shoot less than 30 centerfire rounds as there will be tons of action in the 50-100 yard range.
Oregon Outfitters' involvement on the trip is only to round up enough shooters to fill a platform or two. In addition, if you are in need or firearms for the trip, we'd be happy to assist you with your purchase. Diamond A Guides will be providing all of our food, lodging and guiding for the weekend. Depending on number of people attending, we may have 2 elevated trailers which will be stationed in different fields. Shooting groups can shift around each day depending on guest preference.
1 or 2 full days of varmint shooting on an elevated shooting platform
Dog-Gone-Good shooting bags
1 night lodging (if hunting 2 days)
3 hearty, home cooked meals per day
Access to Crane Hot Springs
Crystal Crane Hot Springs 59315 OR-78 Burns, OR 97720
May 4-5, 2019.
The Hot Springs/Diamond A Guide HQ is about a 2.5 hour drive from Bend, OR.
I plan to drive up on Saturday morning leaving Bend at about 530am. Breakfast is served at 8am.
We'll drive home late afternoon - Leaving Crane around 6-7pm at the latest.
What to bring for shooting:
Rimfire rifles and handguns (22LR, 22 Mag, 17HMR, etc.)
Small bore centerfire rifles (.223, 22-250, 22 Nosler, etc.)
Multiple magazines for each firearm
750-1000 rounds of ammunition per day of shooting
Suppressors for any of the above firearms (optional)
Eye and ear protection
Closed toe shoes
Firearm cleaning kit
What to bring for camp (if hunting 2 days):
Sleeping bag and pillow
$515.00 for a 2-day hunt, 1 night lodging and 6 meals
$315.00 for a 1 day hunt (Saturday ONLY) and 3 meals
It is customary to tip your guide $20/day as they work hard to get us on rats and often help loading mags so we can stay shooting.
Call Diamond A Guides to pay via CC – (541) 573-6080 or bring a check to the shoot. Mention “Oregon Outfitters May 4-5 Sage Rat Platform Shoot” and whether you're going for both days or for a single day.
CONFIRM ATTENDANCE WITH RYAN AFTER PAYMENT IS MADE.
Ryan Johnson, Oregon Outfitters - Call or text at (541) 977-9707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org