Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Fuller Tale

As promised, here's the full story from my first successful winter steelhead trip.  After five previous trips for winter steelhead the scoreboard still showed a big goose-egg (but who's keeping score, right?) -- turns out the sixth is a charm.

When my friend Tom called to tell me he was in for a day of fishing I debated greatly on a location.  You see, I was mentally ready for another skunking in the rain for a chance at a winter steelhead, but Tom and I have a problem.  That is, nearly every time we go fishing together we end up either skunked or with very little to show for our efforts.  Superstitions be damned but I've wondered if there wasn't some serious voodoo going on.  We've been on a few floats, all ending fishless, and we've fished the truckee and the metolious where Tom was spared the skunk due to the gracious nature of the whitefish.

So I wanted desperately to break our streak.  As my mind worked through the flies needed for the crooked river or the deschutes - where I was reasonably sure we could catch a trout or two - I got another call from Tom, "Dude, we should go for steelhead."

And with that, our fate was determined.

We picked our way along a north coast river hitting a half dozen pullouts and dead-drifting egg and nymph patterns through the runs, letting it hang below us for a bit before the next cast.  It was on one of those hang-downs, in front of a sizable boulder, when a fish struck and practically hooked himself.  I felt the take before I saw it and I simply yanked the rod towards the bank, thankfully burying the hook in the corner of the mouth.  I'm pretty sure Tom and I both yelled like idiots. ("Sonnn!")

Unaccustomed to fish of this size, I felt like my 8wt was on the verge of snapping, and I thought it was over when it took short run and blasted a small jump right into some low overhanging branches.  Somehow this didn't tangle my line and I led the fish upstream, pulled it on it's side, and scooped it up.  The fish promptly flopped out of the net and I again thought it was over when my slack line tighted back up on this fish.  Lucky save #2.  After a few more attempts I finally got it tailed in a sandy shallow and got some wet, blurry, and priceless photos.  In the end I managed to land this fish in a timely fashion and I was happy to see it's burst of energy as Tom released it for me.

All smiles and still in mild disbelief that I had actually caught a winter steelhead, we moved on to the next hole.

Somewhere during this trip I mentioned to Tom, "I won't be surprised if you hook a fish, but I'm expecting it to kick your ass, and I'm going to laugh when it breaks you off."  Perhaps not the most encouraging thing to say but at this point Tom hadn't landed a fish on a fly rod in many months, and in my experience the piece that gets rusty first is reaction time during critical moments. That said, Tom also has the most intuitive understanding of mending and dead-drifting out of anyone I've seen take up flyfishing-- including myself.

On the very next hole, I was proved completely wrong.  When I looked up to see Tom with his rod double over, I started shouting meaningless suggestions about what to do, while he handled the fish like a pro.  This fish was noticeably hotter than the one I just landed and it took several sweet downstream runs that ended in awesome cartwheeling acrobatics.  We eventually got this one into the net and the photos tell the rest of that story.  It's amazing how equally rewarding it is to watch someone land a fish as it is to land one yourself--  this was no exception.

Bad luck streak = broken.

For the rest of the day the temperatures dropped and the skies threatened heavier rains and no more fish were caught with the exception of one poor cuttie who took a lowly glowly to the snout.

To top this day off I'd like to mention that the fly that was responsible for both fish is the pink steelhead aggravator I cooked up in November which means that steelhead have been caught on 2 out of 3 variations of that fly.  The fly was designed to be a variation of Andy Burk's aggravator since it could be primarily dead-drifted but also swung at the end of a drift due to it's marabou tail.  And so far it has performed perfectly as such, and was even (theoretically) chosen over my lowly glowly dropper on this particular day.


Ivan said...

That's how I imagine the first winter steelhead to be. Wet, blurry, and brilliant.

Congrats Brian. Hell of a fish.

Joshua Rainey said...

Wonderfully done! Stoked for you that your first winter fish was a native too! Nothing like it.

And, where can I get some of those custom tied aggravators?

brandon4455 said...

awesome it when they get colored up, thats a nice area up there too.


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