Pro Fishing Guide Kevin Newell and Field Strip Gen II

It was a misty, pre-dawn morning on Dock One in Astoria, Oregon. Soft yellow lights illuminate patches of weathered, well-worn decking and 30 or so boats gently press up against their buoys. Skeletal masts of sailboats reach up towards the low-hanging marine layer and short skiffs bob in between, set with seats in neat rows. In the middle of it all floats the 37’ Liberty Gun.

 

Together with his wife Lacy, Kevin Newell owns the Liberty Gun and Total Fisherman Guide Service and has for over 20 years. He quietly chats with us as his deckhand, Ben, strides down the dock pushing a wheelbarrow stacked gingerly with a dozen fishing rods. “Ah. Yeah. I was hoping we’d get out into tuna waters today,” he says. “But it’s just too rough out there.” So instead the rods Ben walks down the dock are for sturgeon and salmon. “Most of the people you’ll see headed out today are fishing for salmon anyways. This is the best salmon fishery on the west coast. But,” he explains to us, “there are rockfish and lingcod around here this time of year, too. The deeper you go, the bigger you go.”

 

This is the fourth season Kevin has fished with the impressively large and immaculately clean Liberty Gun (all day we see Ben wiping up single fish scales and tossing small bits of kelp overboard when there are a few moments in between baiting). We see the way he lights up when we show him what Field Strip Gen II can do—purge the Bona Fide™ of every bit of fish slime without tools, right on the boat. 

 

Never Skunked on Sturgeon

 

“You spend enough time doing anything and you should have a spidey sense,” Kevin says as he cuts the three massive motors and the Liberty Gun drifts to stillness in the middle of the Columbia River. Minutes after he and Ben bait and cast all six of the sturgeon rods, suddenly, one of them bends. 

 

The average sturgeon Kevin says he and his clients pull in is over 8 feet long. 800 pounds. And I believe him as my body strains against the powerful tug of the river monster we have yet to lay eyes on. The reel whirrs as the fish pulls out away from the boat and the bend of the rod is impossibly arced. Ben casually leans over and ups the drag on the reel. 

 

“He’s a heavy six and a half,” Kevin calmly observes almost ten full minutes later when the battle finally starts to wind down and the sturgeon’s whiskery snout breaks above the water. “You know, a lot of times the water’s too hot and the fish aren’t up here,” he says as he deftly manipulates the sturgeon to get us a good picture. “But we’re getting such a cooling effect with these big tides coming off the cold ocean that last year we didn’t have.” And it strikes me—even as I reach out to grab the massive river beast by the lower lip for a photo op—that it must be a powerful thing to know a river and fish patterns so well that you can detect even the slightest shifts from one year to the next. 

 

“Well guys, we’re going to let mister whiskers off the hook so he can go on and live a happy sturgeon life,” Kevin says as the fish quietly swims off. A few more massive sturgeon later, and we make our way out closer to the confluence to drop off the crab pots. 

 

Always Overbait the Crab Pots

 

“This is what we used to do when I was a kid,” Kevin says as he pulls a baggie stuffed full of shad out of a small cooler. “Come out, drop the crab pots, catch our salmon, go sturgeon fishing, pull the crab pots. Call it the trifecta. So that’s what we’re doing today. Just a little out of order. Doing a trifecta throwback trip. Like what I used to do in my high school days.”

 

There are an endless number of ways to make a crab pot. All it takes is two hoops, chicken wire (or something of the sort), rope, and a buoy. When a crab pot rests on the sandy bottom, full of bait, the crabs squeeze their way in or latch on so tight to their feast that when the crab-hungry fishermen come back later and pull the pot up, the crabs are unable to find their way back up or unwilling to let go. Simple and delicious. 

 

As Kevin watches Ben tie shad onto the wire, he sternly teaches, “always overbait the crab pots.”

 

I ask, “how much do you notice these waters and this landscape change year after year?” He gazes out over the edge of the boat and pauses as Ben drops the baited pot, “I’ve spent years, literally years of time just looking for salmon and sturgeon right here.” Looking back at me he says, “I watch the sandbars shift over long periods of time. It really makes me realize the importance of being a steward of the resources and the places that I know so well. Being a steward, to me, means that when no one is watching, you still do the right thing. Even if you could have gotten away with something.”

 

He turns away for a moment to help Ben tie the next silvery shad to the last crab pot and glances back, “My dad always used to say that the number one job of a leader is to create other leaders. And I really try to be that guy.”

 

Can’t Count on Blue Skies on the Oregon Coast

 

Later, after shouldering in next to countless salmon fishing skiffs, Kevin and Ben bait and cast the rods, dropping each line down to a different, tiered depth and dragging them slowly back and forth. After a few passes, we still haven’t had a bite. 

 

“Every day I come to my job and it’s a puzzle to solve,” shrugs Kevin. “Rarely are two days the same. It’s challenging. Sometimes extremely. I enjoy that.” 

 

As we decide to bail and go back to retrieve the crab pots, Kevin says “Even if the lines are empty, which they rarely are, the people that I take fishing are at their finest moments; having a great time. I’ve caught a lot of fish in my life—if it was just that, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. For me, it’s all about watching people come to life.”

 

 The Right Tool for the Right Job

 

Back on the dock, cleaned crab boiling in a massive pot, beers in hand, Kevin reflects, “I’ve been doing this almost 20 years now. One of the things I’ve seen and noticed is that you don’t realize how you’re getting older so quickly. When you fish so much, like we did today, 10 hours goes by in the blink of an eye. Well, doing it every day, 20 years goes by in the blink of an eye.” He laughs as he says, “One of my favorite clients—a guy that comes back year after year—said to me, ‘I didn’t mean to get this old. It just happened overnight.’ It makes you appreciate every single day on the water. That’s invaluable. I hope I never lose that.”

 

People in waders and oversized rain slickers walk by as we continue sipping beers and watching the crab boil. It seems like everyone knows and greets Kevin—poking fun for being the guy on a photoshoot, reporting that they saw Lacy pulling in a massive salmon earlier in a boat full of clients. 

 

“My goal is to be at the top of my game every single day,” Kevin says with a sort of finality. “You can’t cut corners. You can’t take shortcuts. I’m fortunate enough to call some of the best fishermen in the world my friends; they’re my peers, but they’re also my competition. To compete at that level, you have to have the best equipment that’s not going to let you down.”

 

“I can guarantee you that if you’re running shoddy stuff, it’s going to fail on you when you need it the most. That’s why I refuse to use anything but the best reels, rods, motors, and,” as he glances down at the Bona Fide™ with Field Strip Gen II, “that includes the best knives.”

 

We appreciate Total Fisherman Guide Service for collaborating with us in our field research efforts.

All images by Mighty Creature Co.

Pro Fishing Guide Kevin Newell and Field Strip Gen II:

It was a misty, pre-dawn morning on Dock One in Astoria, Oregon. Soft yellow lights illuminate patches of weathered, well-worn decking and 30 or so boats gently press up against their buoys. Skeletal masts of sailboats reach up towards the low-hanging marine layer and short skiffs bob in between, set with seats in neat rows. In the middle of it all floats the 37’ Liberty Gun.

 

Together with his wife Lacy, Kevin Newell owns the Liberty Gun and Total Fisherman Guide Service and has for over 20 years. He quietly chats with us as his deckhand, Ben, strides down the dock pushing a wheelbarrow stacked gingerly with a dozen fishing rods. “Ah. Yeah. I was hoping we’d get out into tuna waters today,” he says. “But it’s just too rough out there.” So instead the rods Ben walks down the dock are for sturgeon and salmon. “Most of the people you’ll see headed out today are fishing for salmon anyways. This is the best salmon fishery on the west coast. But,” he explains to us, “there are rockfish and lingcod around here this time of year, too. The deeper you go, the bigger you go.”

This is the fourth season Kevin has fished with the impressively large and immaculately clean Liberty Gun (all day we see Ben wiping up single fish scales and tossing small bits of kelp overboard when there are a few moments in between baiting). We see the way he lights up when we show him what Field Strip Gen II can do—purge the Bona Fide™ of every bit of fish slime without tools, right on the boat. 

Never Skunked on Sturgeon

“You spend enough time doing anything and you should have a spidey sense,” Kevin says as he cuts the three massive motors and the Liberty Gun drifts to stillness in the middle of the Columbia River. Minutes after he and Ben bait and cast all six of the sturgeon rods, suddenly, one of them bends. 

The average sturgeon Kevin says he and his clients pull in is over 8 feet long. 800 pounds. And I believe him as my body strains against the powerful tug of the river monster we have yet to lay eyes on. The reel whirrs as the fish pulls out away from the boat and the bend of the rod is impossibly arced. Ben casually leans over and ups the drag on the reel. 

“He’s a heavy six and a half,” Kevin calmly observes almost ten full minutes later when the battle finally starts to wind down and the sturgeon’s whiskery snout breaks above the water. “You know, a lot of times the water’s too hot and the fish aren’t up here,” he says as he deftly manipulates the sturgeon to get us a good picture. “But we’re getting such a cooling effect with these big tides coming off the cold ocean that last year we didn’t have.” And it strikes me—even as I reach out to grab the massive river beast by the lower lip for a photo op—that it must be a powerful thing to know a river and fish patterns so well that you can detect even the slightest shifts from one year to the next. 

“Well guys, we’re going to let mister whiskers off the hook so he can go on and live a happy sturgeon life,” Kevin says as the fish quietly swims off. A few more massive sturgeon later, and we make our way out closer to the confluence to drop off the crab pots. 

Always Overbait the Crab Pots

 

“This is what we used to do when I was a kid,” Kevin says as he pulls a baggie stuffed full of shad out of a small cooler. “Come out, drop the crab pots, catch our salmon, go sturgeon fishing, pull the crab pots. Call it the trifecta. So that’s what we’re doing today. Just a little out of order. Doing a trifecta throwback trip. Like what I used to do in my high school days.”

There are an endless number of ways to make a crab pot. All it takes is two hoops, chicken wire (or something of the sort), rope, and a buoy. When a crab pot rests on the sandy bottom, full of bait, the crabs squeeze their way in or latch on so tight to their feast that when the crab-hungry fishermen come back later and pull the pot up, the crabs are unable to find their way back up or unwilling to let go. Simple and delicious. 

As Kevin watches Ben tie shad onto the wire, he sternly teaches, “always overbait the crab pots.”

I ask, “how much do you notice these waters and this landscape change year after year?” He gazes out over the edge of the boat and pauses as Ben drops the baited pot, “I’ve spent years, literally years of time just looking for salmon and sturgeon right here.” Looking back at me he says, “I watch the sandbars shift over long periods of time. It really makes me realize the importance of being a steward of the resources and the places that I know so well. Being a steward, to me, means that when no one is watching, you still do the right thing. Even if you could have gotten away with something.”

He turns away for a moment to help Ben tie the next silvery shad to the last crab pot and glances back, “My dad always used to say that the number one job of a leader is to create other leaders. And I really try to be that guy.”

Can’t Count on Blue Skies on the Oregon Coast

Later, after shouldering in next to countless salmon fishing skiffs, Kevin and Ben bait and cast the rods, dropping each line down to a different, tiered depth and dragging them slowly back and forth. After a few passes, we still haven’t had a bite. 

“Every day I come to my job and it’s a puzzle to solve,” shrugs Kevin. “Rarely are two days the same. It’s challenging. Sometimes extremely. I enjoy that.” 

As we decide to bail and go back to retrieve the crab pots, Kevin says “Even if the lines are empty, which they rarely are, the people that I take fishing are at their finest moments; having a great time. I’ve caught a lot of fish in my life—if it was just that, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. For me, it’s all about watching people come to life.”

 The Right Tool for the Right Job

Back on the dock, cleaned crab boiling in a massive pot, beers in hand, Kevin reflects, “I’ve been doing this almost 20 years now. One of the things I’ve seen and noticed is that you don’t realize how you’re getting older so quickly. When you fish so much, like we did today, 10 hours goes by in the blink of an eye. Well, doing it every day, 20 years goes by in the blink of an eye.” He laughs as he says, “One of my favorite clients—a guy that comes back year after year—said to me, ‘I didn’t mean to get this old. It just happened overnight.’ It makes you appreciate every single day on the water. That’s invaluable. I hope I never lose that.”

People in waders and oversized rain slickers walk by as we continue sipping beers and watching the crab boil. It seems like everyone knows and greets Kevin—poking fun for being the guy on a photoshoot, reporting that they saw Lacy pulling in a massive salmon earlier in a boat full of clients. 

“My goal is to be at the top of my game every single day,” Kevin says with a sort of finality. “You can’t cut corners. You can’t take shortcuts. I’m fortunate enough to call some of the best fishermen in the world my friends; they’re my peers, but they’re also my competition. To compete at that level, you have to have the best equipment that’s not going to let you down.”

“I can guarantee you that if you’re running shoddy stuff, it’s going to fail on you when you need it the most. That’s why I refuse to use anything but the best reels, rods, motors, and,” as he glances down at the Bona Fide™ with Field Strip Gen II, “that includes the best knives.”

We appreciate Total Fisherman Guide Service for collaborating with us in our field research efforts.

All images by Mighty Creature Co.

Gary Paasch and the LCK +

While Hood River, Oregon may hog the Columbia River Gorge spotlight as the destination for wine-sipping weekenders or Fruit Loop families, there are a number of smaller communities tucked among the surrounding craggy cliffs and rain-touched hills. It’s here in Underwood, Washington—a stone’s throw across the river but seemingly a world away—that we find Gary Paasch, owner of School of Send.

It’s not yet dawn as our tires crunch down the gravel driveway through a wall of trees, our headlights briefly illuminating a wooden bike jump and a massive dirt landing in the front yard. A small clearing reveals a nestled-into-the-hillside house. On the far end, the garage door is open and a warm beam of light pours out.

Gary knows we’re coming but we have a feeling he’d be up, aproned, and wrenching before dawn even if there was no one around to document it. 

One considered look and a smooth deployment of the LCK + later, and it’s woven itself seamlessly into Gary’s tangle of tools, emerging every few minutes to snap a zip tie or slice a baggie then sinking back in among the calculated chaos.

Work for What You Got

Gary grew up in Parkdale, Oregon a small town on the Northern shoulder of Mt. Hood. 11 miles from the summit as the crow flies. His parents—local high school sweethearts—married young and bought an old bread truck. Together they turned it into a mobile slaughterhouse and helped ranchers all over the Hood River Valley process thousands of pounds of meat every season. They raised a few head themselves, too. “They were the kind of people that made me earn every penny I saw,” remembers Gary. And he did, bucking hay, moving firewood, picking up odd jobs around the neighborhood, raising and auctioning sheep, rabbits, even rats through 4H.

It didn’t take long for young Gary to earn himself enough to buy his first dirtbike. The rolling hills, expansive logging-company-owned acreage, and neighboring orchards were soon to see many more tire tracks. And that was only just the beginning.

No Dig, No Ride

Gary’s love affair with two wheels intensified exponentially into his middle and high school years. “All of the ditches on my bike route to school had little jumps and berms that I built,” he remembers. “Sometimes I’d even bring a shovel to school so I could fix things up on my way home.”

“As often as I could convince her, my mom would shuttle me to the top of Post Canyon or Syncline, two of our local trail systems,” he says. “She’d drop me off and meet me at the bottom after I’d rip down. She knew—maybe even before I did—what mountain biking meant to me. And she supported me in every way,” he remembers. 

“One time,” he says as his eyes light up, “I was at the bottom of Syncline waiting for her. She was taking longer than usual and I had just started to pedal back up towards her when she came around the corner in her tiny Toyota Camry with a turkey in the backseat. ‘Mom!’ I said, lost for words, ‘…what?!’ She casually told me she had pulled over on her way down and shot it with her crossbow. She was just like that.”

It wasn’t long before Gary fell in with the local crew of trailbuilders. “The Post Canyon I grew up in was full of massive jumps and built features,” Gary says. “Those guys would send it then build it bigger then send again.” By far the youngest member of the crew, they took Gary under their wing and together, Post Canyon began to transform and attract more attention from big-air freeriders all over the country.

If You Build it, They Will Come

For years after high school, Gary worked at the local bike shop, built trail, and raced professionally, rinse and repeat (punctuated by three outrageously snowy ski bum winters in Jackson Hole, Wyoming). “But it just wasn’t quite doing it for me,” he reflects. He started teaching mountain biking to the kids he was ski race coaching on Mt. Hood in the winters. 

Later in the morning, we leave the garage and walk across the driveway where a 15 passenger van and a short school bus, both painted matte black and emblazoned with SCHOOL OF SEND stickers are parked behind some evergreens. “The mountain bike camps I was coaching kind of felt like an afterthought to ski racing; something to keep the kids engaged in the summer,” he says as he balances his coffee mug on the hand-welded ladder that accesses the mountain bike rack on the top of the bus. “After a few seasons of coaching, a handful of parents approached me and told me I could build it better; that I had their support.”

“That’s how School of Send was born.”

This year was year three for School of Send. After two immensely successful years of teaching kids ages 4 to 16 everything from rolling over a small root to safely assessing and clearing a 14’ gap jump, Gary was poised to double the size of his business this year. But then COVID-19 came along. 

“Even though I technically could have run my camps, I just knew we couldn’t do it right,” Gary says about the tough decision he made. “Our camps are all about high-fives and fist bumps. Sharing lunches and having fun on the shuttle ride up. And, when someone hits the dirt—as we all do when we’re working to progress—I want to be there to pick them back up and get them stoked to try it again,” he says. “So this year, I cancelled all of my camps, ran a few private lessons, and invested my energy somewhere else.”