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Bill Marts

Biography: 

I have a hard time writing about myself, but here goes.  I have been in the fly fishing industry for more years than most people have been on earth and I have been lucky enough to travel extensively just to put a fly in front of a fish.  I have chased steelhead, salmon and trout throughout the Pacific Northwest, B.C., Alaska, Argentina and Tierra del Fuego.  Saltwater pursuits have taken me to all of the popular fishing destinations in Central America, Bahamas and Venezuela plus some not so familiar (Tuamotus, Cook Is., Seychelles, Truck Is.).  I have been doing business in Mexico with various guides and lodges for 30 years and am very active promoting and helping my friend and his guide service in Holbox, Mexico, fishing for tarpon.  I have been in the fly fishing travel business for over 30 years.  I have guided fly fishers for trout and steelhead  in Washington, Montana, and Idaho in the years between 1985 and 2005.  I enjoyed the hell out of it, but, now prefer fishing alone or with a friend. With all of this, another of my favorite fishing pastimes is carp fly fishing on the various freshwater flats in Eastern Washington.

I have taught classes in all aspects of fly fishing; had many articles published, owned my own fly shops and worked at The Fly Shop between 2005 and 2011, in the travel department specializing in Saltwater destinations.

What all of this means is that I truly like flyfishing and everything associated with it.  I retired from The Fly Shop, in Redding, Ca. at the end of 2011.  I now tie flies for those who would rather buy than tie and write for a few fly fishing magazines.  I also photograph my trips for the articles I write.

I like to tie flies and especially enjoy a challenge; maybe to come up with a pattern to perform a certain task, use a new material, combine colors in a pleasing way (that also are of interest to the fish) or imitate a food source for certain fishes.  Believe me when I tell you that I have created many more “duds” than effective patterns.  But that is actually part of the fun and learning.  I really like the “old style” steelhead patterns (on a single hook – no stinger) and fish them a lot, but I appreciate the effectiveness of the newer intruder type flies.

Given a choice between a stream containing few fish with no anglers around and a new run of eager steelhead in a river choked with well-meaning, dedicated anglers and I’ll wade the lonely waters searching for the stray fish or two.  That is probably why I fish way more than I catch.  Good thing I like the fishing.

As much as I enjoy swinging a fly through a perfect run, I am slowly giving way to a preference of shooting (with a camera) my streamside experiences.  An image or two that really stand out from hundreds of shots in a day give me the same feeling that a pull gives me after hundreds of casts.  So, as long as I can carry my camera and my rod to the river, I’ll keep doing it.

Blog posts

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SILVER AND GOLD – SOUTH OF THE BORDER

I try not to build high expectations for any trip.  But sometimes it is impossible for me not to attach some goals to another adventure.  This trip had been 50 years in the making and 5 years of saving for it.  My wife, Judy, and I planned to celebrate our 50th  (Gold) wedding anniversary at Isla Holbox, Mexico.  We planned it to coincide with the presence of large and baby tarpon literally...

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A Dog’s Best Friend

Gawwwwwwwwwd!!!!!  I have writer’s block.  I have stared at this computer for three nights in a row without laying down a word.  Not even a letter.  This has happened before but not as severe as this.  It is like a palsy.  My hands are frozen in the “start” position over the keys.  I know what I want to write about.  I don’t know where to start.  I’ll just start writing stuff down and see what...

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EXPLORATIONS

 

Ex-plo-ra-tion  -  To travel (in a little-known region) for discovery.  To examine (something) carefully; investigate.   Doesn’t it just send chills up and down your body to relate that word to your flyfishing adventures.  It does for me.  I can’t help it.  I once conducted an experiment.  I would ask fishers if they were given a choice of two maps; one with a possibly finding a pot...

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OLD FRIEND AND NEW WATERS

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to meet up with an old (actually he’s pretty young) friend to fish new waters.  Our plan A was to go to the Thompson, but it closed after the first of November.  We planned to leave on the 18th.  What to do??  I called a friend (Jeff Jarrett) in Orofino, Idaho to see what the Clearwater was doing.  He told me to get my ass up there.  So Plan B turned to the...

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FIRST DAY BLUES

Whenever I take a steelheading or any other fishing trip, I get the First Day Blues.  I can prepare all I want and I will have a major fuck-up on my first day.  I don’t know why this happens.  I can get to my destination camp or room or lodge with all of my equipment and necessary items; clothing, camera stuff, fishing gear and toiletries.  I have everything to make a successful trip.  But I...

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Twisting Feathers In Camp

On a recent steelhead trip we were lucky enough to have some calm, warm evenings around a fly tying table and close to a campfire.  We quit fishing before dark (for a change) and got back to camp in the late afternoon.  So often, Steelheading is a schedule of up before dawn and back after dark.  If there is one thing more years on the rivers than I care to count has taught me, is to cheat on...

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IT’S IN THE AIR

It is the 5th of September and we have a cold front moving through Seattle with a bit of rain.  It feels like fall.  Yesterday when there were a few hours of sunshine making its way through the trees, I recognized the angle of the shadows as a forecast of autumn a few days or weeks ahead.  Within the last couple of decades I would go into a funk because of the diminishing daily sunshine.  Some...

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STICK ‘EM UP!

I have chosen to never take up golf.  I know I would like it and I don’t need any other activity to take away my limited time on the river.  My hat goes off to those who can combine golf and flyfishing.  I just get too obsessive when starting a new activity or sport.  And besides that, every sport I’ve taken up as an adult has brought me within a 7x tippet’s width of death.  Only because I’ve...

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ALONE

I heard a song today that reminded me of a fishing trip I was on in the early 70’s.  The song doesn’t remind me of myself and my life but of a specific trip.  I was by myself at an eastern Washington lake in late April.  I was by myself and set up a camp along the shoreline.  On the drive over, I heard “I Drink Alone” by George Thorogood.  I’ve always liked that song because of the way it...

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HITCHIN’ A RIDE

I was lucky enough to be one of the first fly fishers in Los Roques, Venezuela.  There were no guides ; only local fishermen who would take us out to fish for raton (bonefish).  I was with a video production company shooting a video of this up and coming bonefish destination.  It was actually unbelievable fly fishing for bones. Once we got it across to the fishermen/guides what we were after (...

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THE DAY THE TRUCK SUNK AND THE BOAT BURNT

I guess if you fish long enough some pretty strange adventures await.  One of my favorite saltwater bonefish areas for wade-fishing is Christmas Island in the Pacific about a 1000 miles south of Hawaii.  I have been there a few times and have some very memorable days of fishing.  I want to tell you of one particular day while fishing for Trevally and a few bonefish.  It was the day the truck...

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LEAP OF FAITH

This is a concept that we steelheaders deal with every time we head to the river.  Just the act of traveling (sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles) proves that we have taken a leap of faith; we have faith that the fishing might, could, should – WILL be worth the trip.  If you have ever fished with a guide, you know how much faith you have in what he/she may tell you about the river or...

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Home River Fun

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to meet friends on my old home waters; the Wenatchee River.  The river was perfect and we all were excited.  When I lived in Wenatchee in the 90’s, I learned the Wenatchee River and learned to love it.  I would start fishing it for steelhead in August and my earliest fish caught was August 14th.   It usually got better until the end of September to mid October...

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I heard it through the grapevine

I was driving home from elk hunting the other day and I heard a song on the radio that beamed me (Scotty) into the past.  In 1970, I was driving with a friend south from Seattle to fish for three days.  That day we were headed for the Toutle River.  About halfway to the river, I heard a new version of a song I knew very well.  This version was 11 minutes long, though, and sung by Credence...

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Fishing is Fishing

Last week I finally got to realize a goal.  In addition to an addiction to steelhead, I have to get a fix of throwing flies at carp every summer.  My brother and I took off from Seattle in a pouring-down rain for the drive east to meet our friend Darc Knobel in Ephrata, Wa, for three days of chasing scales on the flats of Banks Lake in Eastern Washington.  The type of fly fishing for carp we...

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Haida Gwaii

              For several years a friend of mine who lived on Queen Charlotte Islands, constantly told me stories of fantastic fishing in the primal streams flowing through the thick rain forests surrounding him.  Another friend of mine and I decided to visit him and see how much of what he had to say was BS and how much was possible.  We discovered no BS and all kinds of possibilities.  We...

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Atlantic Sea-Run Browns and Steelhead

Several years ago I read a statement that I found unbelievable – Steelhead were being caught in a river in Argentina that, naturally, emptied into the Atlantic ocean.  No such thing, I thought. Steelhead are a Pacific ocean product. Then I started researching the possibility.  A friend of mine and I were planning a trip to Rio Gallegos, just south of the Rio Santa Cruz (where the steelhead...

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Fishing With Johnny

I like to think of how fly fishing has enriched my life.  One of the ways that it has, is the people I have met, fished with and who are my friends because of throwing feathers and fur at fish. It used to be all about the fish and the fishing with me (sometimes, it still is), but more and more it is about the people I am with.  One of these guys I met because of fly fishing is Johnny.  Now,...

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Any Color As Long As It Is Purple

I don’t know why the color purple has so much appeal to me for steelhead flies.  Probably, because I’ve caught so many steelhead on purple flies.  There are two flies of this color that I have used the most; Purple Peril and many variations of it and my own Purple Haze. At the time I named it, I didn’t realize there was another (maybe more) with that name.  But I decided to keep it; one,...

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Skunk Up

Original Skunk pattern (from Steelhead Fly Patterns and Flies by Trey Combs):

Tail    -    Red hackle fibers

Body -    Black chenille ribbed with silver tinsel

Hackle – Black, sometimes tied as a beard

Wing -    White bucktail or polar bear

Skunk Up pattern (Marts pattern):

Hook -   AJ 1 ½ , 3 or 5

Tail   -     Red polar bear

Eyes...

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Flies, Then And Way Back Then:

I am tying steelhead flies for an upcoming trip (in October).  I only have about 4 million steelhead flies dating back to the 80’s, but I could always use a couple hundred more.  I tie several dozen to hundreds of flies for major trips (major trips for me are any time I can get on the river).  I do enjoy tying for upcoming fishing, so any river time is a good excuse for tying up bunches of...

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River Dipper

I used to have a river-friend on the Tolt River out close to Carnation, Wa.  For a long while, this run on the river was a favorite steelhead haunt of mine.  It was close to my home in Woodinville.  I could get there when I only had a few hours to fish.  I usually saw my friend when I was least ready.  That is the reason I have no pictures of him (check out http://vireo.acnatsci.org and search...

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Crotch Deep In Fast Waters

Wading is not one of my favorite fishing subjects, but it deserves some comments.  It is one of those evil necessaries associated with steelheading.  Unless one fishes solely from a boat, river anglers have to develop skills needed to move about in the currents.  If one is dedicated to cast from the best possible position to put a fly in front of eager steelhead, he (she) has to do whatever is...

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The Magic Time

It is strange to me why I love being on the water during certain times under different, but specific conditions when I know other periods of the day have accounted for more fish.  I don’t know about everybody else, but the best time, for me, to hook steelhead has been between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM.  I have caught and my clients (when I was guiding) have caught more steelhead during that time...

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I Prefer My Reels To Click

If you have read any of my previous posts to Epic FlyFishing you know that I am a little “old School” when it comes to my equipment.  Especially, my reels.  For all of my freshwater fishing I use a click/pawl-drag reel.  My favorites are the old Orvis CFO reels (made by Hardy in the 70’s and early 80’s, by the way).  I also use a Bougle (Hardy made) reel and CFO VI’s for my two handed rods.  I...

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Single-Hand Rod vs. Two-Hand Rod

Why use a single-hand rod when a two-hand rod can fish more efficiently?  Pure enjoyment, that’s why.  I have to admit I use a two-hand rod more often than a single-hand for steelhead, but I am slowly coming back around to the pure fun of casting, fishing and catching on a single-hand.  Here is what I wish.  I wish I could have the casting and fish-playing fun of the shorter rod and the line...

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THE DAY I QUIT FISHING AND THEN THE DAY I CAME TO MY SENSES

The day I quit fishing for steelhead was a normal Washington, December day (drizzle and upper thirties air temp).  My friend and I got to the Barrier Dam launch on the Cowlitz River at 4:30 AM and we were 5th (5TH!!!) in line to launch my drift boat.  We were not fly fishing.  I could hear some arguing about who was in front of whom and statements like “Where did you learn to back up a trailer...

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The Old Trail

The trail never gets easier, only more familiar.  I anticipate the meadows with calm pleasure and the cliffs with fear and dread.  I keep trekking it season after season with my fly rod in my hand.  The end of the trail is always welcome and the resultant fishing is always beyond my expectation.  I remember when I first found it.  I was glancing over a map of the no-road access areas of not-...

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INVEST YOURSELF FLYFISHING FOR STEELHEAD

To this day it is still important to me to be invested in my fly fishing.  This could mean many things to different anglers.  To me it was tying my own flies, building my own rods (I no longer do this), learning to cast and teaching thousands of people over the decades these same skills.  When I first got intensely interested in fly tying and fishing, I got an aquarium, caught some aquatic...

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'Be like water my friend' - Bruce Lee.

Back before there was a mad rush to simply try to catch one and post it online to show your 'friends', good anglers would take the time to do a little observing before simply barging in and wading deep and casting far.

Observation of water, or waters, is sorely lacking in many anglers, and, like the saying, 'the grass is always greener on the other side' apparently, so it is with water...

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Steelhead don't skip rope!

As long as anglers have pursued Steelhead mending the line has been part of the process of presentation. Now one could dig up some encyclopedia reference to the term 'mend' and although it won't say anything about fishing, It will describe the need 'to fix or repair' something.

So this begs the question, 'how does one tell if a cast requires a fix?' Some anglers don't even wait for the...

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