The fog stuck low to the ground, and the tops of the Douglas Firs could be seen over the inversion of clouds. The beach felt warm and with each step, the humid salty air filled the lung cavities.
The wooden dory boat was loaded up with fishing gear, and the light peaked over the horizon. We hopped in the boat and the deckhand positioned it directly into the waves, the captain fired up the engine, and we jetted forward into the surf.
“Hold onto yourself.” yells captain Rob Perkin as the wooden dory boat smashes through a big wave and slaps the flat water behind it. The boat speeds up once the wave break was cleared, b-lining towards the fishing grounds. The hull of the wooden dory slapping the waves away as the motor got on step.
Flies were tied onto sink tips and cast out behind the boat. The motor kicked as the wooden boat trolled through the deep depths of the dark blue pacific. The target species were rock bass, an abundant species found off the Oregon coast. Typically schooled up, these fish pulled hard, shook with all their might, and also taste pretty wrapped up in a tortilla.
The bite was good this specific morning, as we trolled through and stripped flies through the deep water, catching rock bass after rock bass until everyone on the boat had limited out. Double-ups were common and there was even a triple-up at one time. The smaller fish were let go and the bigger fish we harvested. The amount of tug these 3-5 pound fish gave the 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 sea life, big gray whales, Dungeness crabs, lingcod, schools of rock bass, and a variety of pacific salmon species lining the coastal reefs. Great white sharks and even Orcas, had shown up at captain Robs fishing grounds. And another 20-30 miles away, were tuna grounds where you can target tuna on the fly.
This area of the pacific is a playground for a select group of boaters, “The Dorymen.” A group of boaters that originated over 100 years ago, the Dorymen now consists of over 250 boaters that all have one thing in common, a Dory Boat. Captain Rob and the other recreational dory guides work together from finding fish to making sure safety is a top priority. The ocean can be unforgiving but the camaraderie of the Dorymen is hard to break.
After limiting out on rock bass, the wooden dory boat headed farther off the coast in search of finding coho salmon. The large masses of salmon cruise the Oregon coast in the summer and early fall as they prepare to enter the freshwater systems to begin their breeding rituals on the rivers. Rob’s goal was to intercept the chrome bright fish with big gawdy pink flies and sink tips.
Unfortunately for us, strong south winds colliding with our primary north currents were creating rough seas to navigate in the wooden dory boat. With our limits of rock bass for the day, we cruised back to the beach where we started that morning.
Rob used his radio to call into the other “Dorymen” to see where he could land the boat on the beach. They gave him a specific line based on what the tide was doing and recreationists in the water. Rob lined up behind the wave break until the boat was ready for the landing. He kicked on the throttle and pushed into a wave break just like a surfer as they paddle into a set. The boat gained speed as the wave was breaking and Rob had the throttle engaged.
The wave began to crash the dory boat slid forward ramming 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 on below for the full interview with Rob Perkin.
There is a deep bond between an angler and their boat. For Rob Perkin, his bond with his boat “VISION” runs a little deeper than most. In 2020, Rob left his longtime career to guide fly fishing full-time. Rob and his wife spent much of the COVID lockdown hand-crafting a Wooden Dory that was destined for the sea. After our day on the water with Rob, we were lucky enough to ask him some questions about his guide service and operation.
Flylords: How did you become a dory guide?
Rob: I’ve grown up fishing from a dory out of Pacific City. For over 35 years it’s been in my blood and I’ve always wanted to share this amazing fishery with others. There aren’t many places in the world where you can launch a boat off the beach and be on great fishing grounds for rockfish and salmon within minutes. Our long-term plan was to relocate to the coast in a few years and begin guiding full-time. Like it did for many others, COVID changed our plans and made us reflect and expedite our plans to start an outfitter business.
Flylords: You and your wife built the dory you guide out of, what were some of the biggest challenges with this project?
Rob: My wife and I had built a few other drift boats together prior to the Pacific City Dory. You may need to ask her, but I feel we work very well together and enjoy the process, most of the time. The biggest challenges to building the dory were primarily around the size of the boat and the tight timeline we were working with.
Flylords: How many labor hours went into the build of the boat, any tips for other boat builders out there?
Rob: We have over 500 hours into the boat and there are still items I’m adding and changing. It’s likely this will always be the case.
Flylords: Other than 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 fisheries standpoint?
Rob: Due to diligent work being done by The Pacific Fishery Management Council, ODFW and onsite fisheries employees that monitor effort and catch we’re able to retain rockfish, select salmon and lingcod. I believe the work that’s being done by these agencies has created a sustainable fishery we’re able to 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 primary focus to work with the local community to educate and maintain the dory tradition which started over 115 years ago. There are currently over 250 active boats that call Pacific City home and the fleet is a tight-knit, welcoming group. We have an excellent safety record out of Pacific City. Much of this can be attributed to the community and how we’re always there for others.
Flylords: What is your go-to setup for dory fishing the pacific ocean?
Rob: For Rockfish I like a 7wt rod. The fish can be anywhere from on the surface to down 30+’ so I carry rods rigged with everything from floating lines and poppers to the fast sinking Depthfinder Big Game lines or Coldwater Sink 7 line from Airflo. For the salmon, we use similar lines on 7 and 8 wt rods and matching reels. When we target ling cod we’ll switch to 9 wt. setups with fast sinking lines and heavy clousers.
Photos by Toby Nolan, check out more of Toby’s work on Instagram at @t.nolan.imagery.
Article by Patrick Perry @patperry.
Be sure to check out Airflo’s full line of Saltwater Lines HERE.