The fog stuck low to the ground and the tops of the Douglas Firs could be seen above the cloud cover. The beach felt warm and with every step, the moist salty air filled the lungs.
The wooden dory boat was loaded with fishing gear and the light peaked above the horizon. We boarded the boat and the deck put it directly into the waves, the captain started the engine and we jumped forward into the surf.
“Keep to yourself.” shouts Captain Rob Perkin as the wooden boat crashes into a huge wave and slaps the flat water behind it. The boat accelerates as soon as the break of the tide washes out, lining up for the fishing grounds. The hull of the wooden handle drifting away from the waves as the motor came into step.
Flies were tied to the tops of the sink and thrown out behind the boat. The engine started as the wooden boat passed through the depths of the dark blue pacific. The target species were bass, an abundant species found off the Oregon coast. In typical schooling fashion, these fish pulled hard, shook with all their might, and also tasted great wrapped in a tortilla.
The bite was good this particular morning as we trolled and stripped flies through the deep water, catching bass after rock, until everyone in the boat was limited out. Two-ups were common and there was even a triple at one time. The smaller fish were released and the bigger fish we harvested. The amount of drag these 3-5 pound fish gave on 8-weight rods proved that these fish were born and bred in the deep blue sea.
The North Pacific is no joke, from Rogue Waves and King Tides to Atmospheric Rivers. Not to mention the marine life, large gray whales, Dungeness crabs, lingots, schools of rock bass and a variety of Pacific salmon species that line the coastal reefs. Great white sharks and even Orcas had been showing up at Captain Robs fishing spots. And another 20-30 miles away, were the tuna grounds where you could target tuna on the fly.
This area of the Pacific is a playground for a select group of boaters, “The Dorymen”. A group of boatmen that originated over 100 years ago, the Dorymen now consist of over 250 boatmen who all have one thing in common, a Dory boat. Captain Rob and the other recreational guides work together from finding the fish to making sure safety is a top priority. The ocean may be unforgiving, but Dorymen’s company is hard to break.
After limiting the rock bass, the dory boat headed farther offshore in search of coho salmon. Vast masses of salmon migrate up the Oregon coast in the summer and early fall as they prepare to enter freshwater systems to begin their breeding rituals in rivers. Rob’s goal was to catch bright chrome fish with big pink flies and sink tips.
Unfortunately for us, there was a strong northerly wind and southerly wind that were crashing together to create some rough waves to navigate the wooden boat. With our limits of rock bass for the day, we headed back to the beach where we started that morning.
Rob used his radio to call other “Dorymen” to see where he could land the boat on the beach. They gave him a specific line based on what the tide and the recreationalists were doing in the water. Rob lined up after the break of the wave until the boat was ready for landing. He hit the throttle and pushed into a wave, just like a surfer while paddling in a group. The boat picked up speed as the wave broke and Rob had set the throttle.
The wave began to crash, the dory skidded forward crashing into the beach at high speed. The sandy beach absorbed the power of the wooden boat as the tide surrounded the boat. A job well done by the captain. Read below for the full interview with Rob Perkin.
There is a deep bond between a fisherman and their boat. For Rob Perkin, his connection to his boat “VISION” runs a little deeper than most. In 2020, Rob left his long career to guide fly fishing full time. Rob and his wife spent most of the COVID-19 lockdown handcrafting a wooden boat that was destined for the sea. After our day on the water with Rob, we were lucky enough to ask him a few questions about his guiding service and operation.
Flylords: How did you become a guide?
Rob: I grew up fishing from a boarding house outside of Pacific City. For over 35 years it has been in my blood and I have always wanted to share this amazing fishing with others. There are not many places in the world where you can launch a boat off the beach and be in excellent fishing grounds for rockfish and salmon within minutes. Our long term plan was to move to the coast in a few years and start driving full time. Like many others, COVID changed our plans and made us reflect and accelerate our plans to start a hardware business.
Flylords: You and your wife built the room you guide from, what were some of the biggest challenges with this project?
Rob: My wife and I had built several other drift boats together before the Pacific City Dory. You might have to ask him, but I think we work very well together and enjoy the process, most of the time. The biggest challenges to building the dory were mainly around the size of the boat and the tight time frame we were working with.
Flylords: How many man hours went into building the boat, any advice for other boat builders out there?
Rob: We have over 500 hours on the boat and there are still items I am adding and changing. This will likely always be the case.
Flylords: Besides rock bass, what other species do you guide for in the Pacific Ocean?
Rob: Currently I guide for Coho and Chinook Salmon, Rockfish and Lingcod.
Flylords: Are you able to harvest the fish you catch? Is this sustainable from a fishing point of view?
Rob: Because of the diligent work being done by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, ODFW, and field fisheries officers who monitor effort and catch, we are able to keep rockfish, pick salmon and cod. I believe that the work being done by these agencies has created a sustainable fishery that we can enjoy.
Flylords: In Pacific City, Oregon where you guide you are part of an association of Dorymen, can you talk about the camaraderie of this group?
Rob: The Dorymen’s Association was founded over 20 years ago with the main focus of working with the local community to educate and preserve the dory tradition which began over 115 years ago. There are currently over 250 active boats that call Pacific City home, and the fleet is a close-knit and welcoming bunch. We have an excellent safety record outside of Pacific City. Much of this can be attributed to the community and how we are always there for others.
Flylords: What is your favorite setup for fishing in the Pacific Ocean?
Rob: For Rockfish I like a 7wt rod. The fish can be anywhere from the surface to 30+’, so I keep rods rigged with everything from floating lines and poppers to fast-sinking Depthfinder Big Game lines or Coldwater Sink 7 lines from Airflo. For salmon, we use similar lines on 7 and 8 wt rods and matching reels. When targeting lingon cod we will switch to 9 wt. setups with fast-sinking lines and heavy shut-offs.
Thanks Rob for the time! Be sure to check Rob out online HERE , on his Instagram at @connectoutfitters , or call or text 503.308.1448.
Photos by Toby Nolan, see more of Toby’s work on Instagram at @t.nolan.imagery.
Article by Patrick Perry @patperry.
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