Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Mailman Delivers

The Mailman Delivers
  We distanced the two vehicles a few miles apart. This would make for a good day of steelhead hunting without backtracking. The morning air was cold, biting, stinging, eye freezing cold. I don’t even remember hearing any birds singing to bring in the morning. The weathermen said it was to get to the mid 30’s but for now I think it was near 30 without a degree over. I took Chap Stick and coated the guides and eyes of the fly rod. Next I pulled out a long section of fly line and also smeared some on it. It is the fly line that carries water to the eyes so without coating the fly line there is a better chance the eyes will freeze up sooner. One of the most miserable things to happen during freezing weather is having water freeze on the fly line and around the guides. I rubbed some chap stick on my lips and put down the ear flaps of my Marmot Yukon hat. With heat pads in my pockets to warm my hands during the outing I was ready to go. Deetz (the Mailman) was bundled up also under his chest waders. He put together his noodle rod and exclaimed he had to switch over to 6# mono today because braded line freezes up quick. He uses his home made egg sacks for bait. A few eggs wrapped in a small meshed bag and tied shut. He attaches this to a small hook that’s knotted to the mono. He said he can catch a few fish on this set up before it get’s tore up enough not to use.
  The miles of water we were about to cover I had never fished before. Deetz had but we learned in previous seasons the creeks change paths from year to year.

  When we got down to the water we saw a good amount of fish right off as we looked over the high bank. Steelhead were scattered about with most nearer to the knoll side we stood over. There were a couple of guys fishing up creek but no one was after the many fish below us. The water looked clear enough that they should have been spotted from the far bank but maybe only with a good pair of polarized glasses. It didn’t take us long to get to the far bank, after crossing down creek in shallower water, to wet our lines.
  It wasn’t an easy place to get a lengthy line out with tree branches and brush that lined the creek bank. We took turns casting out towards the steel. The one watching got to keep their hands in their pockets to keep warmer. I went first but after deciding to attach an indicator I got out of the water and gave Deetz a try.

With a smooth quick backhand wrist cast the noodle rod tip flexed outward and the weight of the oblong stick float carried the egg sack and line, out into the cold clear water. We watched as the float drifted with the flow into the run of steel. We watched as a steelhead, from beneath, rose and sucked in the egg sack. Deetz set the hook with a backhand pull and the battle was on. I watched as he wrestled with the steelhead like a pro bass fishermen playing a largemouth out of a weed bed. He moved the rod side to side keeping the steelhead from resting and trying to force the fish in the opposite direction it wanted to go. At his feet the steelhead came unhooked and he was happy he didn’t have to get his hands wet to release the hook.

Drifting my Triple Threat under an indicator hooked a couple of fish momentarily but they seemed to find a way to get off some how before I got much of a fight out of them. Deetz, on the other hand, hooked about a half dozen in that run alone and landed about 4. After that we meandered down stream for the next few miles.
  We found fish here and there and gave them all a look see of what we had to offer. The air was bitter cold so we didn’t change offerings very often. Below a deep pool, in a wide section of riffling water, we took up positions across from each other to cover the area more thoroughly. Deetz cast up creek and let the float guide the egg sack down stream. We watched as the float stopped for an instant and began to sink before he raised the rod for the hook set. The steelhead pulled towards me and headed up creek under the choppy water. By the bend in Deetz noodle rod, he had a monster on his line. The fish stayed deep most of the time like a brown trout testing the 6# test and ability. Deetz played the fish like a pro, not letting the fish rest, arcing the rod towards him at all times. When the fish turned down creek it raised towards the surface and we could see its dark rainbow colors of the male steelhead. Deetz got it turned around again and coming towards him as the fish’s stamina was wearing thin. After splashing about a few times he finally got the good sized steel close enough to the shallower rocks where he could get a hold of the heavy male.

 After that we continued on our journey down creek fishing at oblong shapes and at times deeper hopeful pools. Deetz would connect and land a few more on his egg sacks. I, on occasion, would get one to bite but they just seemed to some how find a way to escape free. The walk and scenery was enjoyable even in the cold conditions.
  When we near where my van was parked, around 1:30pm, Deetz said he had to go. We exited the creek and headed up to the van. I drove us back to his vehicle. After bidding each other fair-well I was anxious to get back to the steelhead we fished over in the morning.
Every Once in Awhile

I looked over the ledge and the abundance of steelhead were still where we left them, strung out along the long stretch of water nearer the cliff. After I crossed over, down stream, I headed up towards the fish. I found a ledge, shin deep, up from where we stood earlier that gave me more casting room and a better drift down creek. I knotted on an extra length of 4X tippet and lit up a Gurkha Regent Connecticut. The first draw had a deep smooth flavor. During the burn it kept that smooth medium to robust flavor and was a well tasteful smoke. I hadn’t landed anything so far but wasn’t going to give up just yet. I knotted on a triple threat under an indicator, cast out towards the far bank, and let it drift through time and time again.
Every once in a while….

  The indicator sunk fast and I lifted the rod quickly and bit down on the stogie a little tighter. All hell broke loose as the chrome steelhead rose to the surface and shook the triple threat, attached to its jaw, trying to shake it loose or break it off.
  There wasn’t much I could do, as she head-shook on the surface, but hold on tight and try to keep the rod tip up. After her splashing escapades she finally went under and we started the tug and pull battle. I’d tug her my way and than she’d pull, with all her strength, away arcing the rod more deeply until line pulled off the reel spool. She fought with heavy surges and I kept my cool and let her exert her energy until she began to slow down. I adjusted the drag a bit tighter and got her nearer to me into the shallower water. Within a few feet she twisted her body and swiped her wide tail propelling water in an attempt to get away. The rod arced deeper towards her until her head turned towards me again. With my hand net frozen I got her to the bank to unhook her and release her.

There were pauses in the hookups. I’d try a different pattern or streamer but always went back to my Ghost pattern Triple Threat. After one cigar burnt out I’d light another, maybe a Bahia Connecticut or a Maduro. This would pass the time as I cast about and let the Triple drift under the indicator.

But every once in a while...
 The indicator stopped in the slower shallower tail out. I twitched the line upward and felt a little movement on the other end. Maybe a light pinch in the lip doesn’t feel so hurtful in the cold water. With a hook setting tug, that moved the object, the battle began with a rise to the surface that erupted in an uncontrollable fit of rage. I stood watching her body flex in a horizontal position throwing her head to and fro, water splashing about. The steel went under and swam upstream with weighty force. The line bounced through the guides after it left the spool spinning. With the butt in my gut I let the steel run just keeping enough tension on the line for the rod to flex near the middle. I wasn’t in any hurry to get her in and it was evident she wasn’t in any hurry to give up just yet. It took a little longer to get her to realize her battling was useless. I got her turned around and eventually got her to hand.

 As time went on I got a couple more hook ups that resulted in good battling brawls. These last few hook ups were the result of only dropping the Triple Threat only a foot below the indicator. As the light started to fade I didn’t want to give up. It was easy to see the yellow topped indicator on the dusky water surface so I continued on.
  On the last hook up the fish took the Triple while moving upstream. The indicator changed direction in which the fish was moving without completely going under. Once I reared back the rod and set the hook the fish turned towards me with underwater yanks and jerks. With power it spun upstream again towards the faster current. I waded up towards it to get pressure from the side. Another underwater flourish erupted in the faster current before he tired out and turned towards me. As he closed in he began to barrel roll in a ferocious manner. After he tired I swung the rod over the bank and swung around behind him. I got him on the bank just as the tippet broke. After the flash went off, I unhooked the mangled Triple and guided him into the water where he swam away freely.
 It was too dark looking through my bi-focal polarized shades to tie another fly on. I packed my gear into my sling pack and headed for the van.

  I knew a hot meal would be waiting for me at my sister’s house only a half hour or so away. A hot shower would feel good also!!

‘Tomorrow's another day’ I thought as I lit up a Cohiba Pequenos.




Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Short Story (Steelhead fishing)

Short Story

 It was the typical December weather for steelhead fishing in Erie. After the 2 hour drive, to keep warm as long as possible, I dressed into my heavy clothes and waders inside my van. I even attached and strung up my 9’ fly rod and reel before braving the cold. I opened the side doors and was met with a breath of fresh, crisp, cold air. A layer of snow covers the ground. I stepped out and immediately felt the December chill swipe across my outer wear. I put on my heavy coat and slung the sling pack over my shoulder. I put on my Marmot Yukon Hat and dropped the ear flaps. The wind blew across the field as if old man winter had a grudge on us who attempted to fish on this wintry day. His gusts howled through the bare branched tree tops louder than Santa’s HO-HO-HO’s.
I fitted my wool fingered mittens on my hands, grabbed my fly rod, tilted my head against the wind and headed to the trail. I was excited as a kid though, there wasn’t a car in sight and I figured I had the creek to myself. It was already about 1:30pm but I should have enough time to enjoy the rest of the day.
Crusted snow crackled under my spiked wading boots as I walked down the hill along the trail. The snow covered forest gave no hint of human inhabitants except for the snow covered picnic table that stood aside the hill. It was if it was placed there for Santa to take a break from his long journey around the world, this coming Christmas, away from the bitter wind. Where his reindeer can forage for acorns and sip water from the cold running creek. It wasn’t long before I heard the sound of tumbling moving water through the bare forest.

The water ran with a tint of green, just enough to maybe see a holding silhouette of a darker steelhead or two. Last time I fished here the water was quite low and the steelhead were huddled in pods in deeper pools. With the more abundance of water they should be strung out along runs and even up against ledges in shallower areas. As I crossed the current, heading downstream, I came across fresh boot tracks. Around the first bend I met my first two fisher people. A woman was casting a fly rod while her mate stood watching with a net on the ready. We exchanged greetings and they had said she had caught one upstream a while ago. I let them be and continued on searching for my first steelhead.
I came to a fast wavy run where a couple of steel were visible but the current was too strong to get a good drift. I came upon a long stretch so I decided to cast a streamer across and let it drift with the current under an indicator. There are times, for steelhead in particular, I find a streamer indicator set up works better than not. I can adjust the depth of my weighted streamer more easily in the slower currents.

 The indicator dropped suddenly with a pull away towards the opposite bank. A quick lift and I had my fist fish on. It was an erratic energetic jack on the end of the line. It took a while to tire, even in the colder water, but the fight was one that got me ready for bigger steel to come.

  When I got to the stretch of water I wanted to be, there wasn’t anyone around. Looking through my polarized glasses I could see a couple dark pods of two or three fish and a few strung out along the run. Except for the one jack, I had caught earlier; I hadn’t a hit for the past half hour. I was hoping these fish would cooperate.

 With a long cast outward my indicator landed and I made a quick mend upstream. The indicator caught the current seam and gently flowed with it. When the indicator dipped downward I gave a quick heavy heave of the rod tip, which arced under pressure. The hooked fish rose an instant and I seen its silvery side before it turned deep. I gave it line and it wasn’t long before she rose again and started to head slashing, water splashing fight trying to loosen the hook. I kept the rod up keeping the line out of the water as she splashed about. Her wide girth forced waves of water about as she fought along the surface. Tired of this she took to a forceful swim with less slashing or head shakes. I kept a good hold on the cork grip with the butt into my stomach holding on with both hands and letting the drag play its part. I forgot all about the blowing December chilled air. I forgot about my red cold hands or cold feet. I was having fun.

  I backed up onto the bank as I drew her closer. I knew once she got to the shallower water she’d take at least one last outward surge and I was prepared. She turned away with force and I palmed the spool to let only enough line out to not overpower the rod or 4X tippet. She turned back towards me and I got her to the bank.

 After the release it was a good time for my first cigar. I pulled out a Gurkha Regent Connecticut. The thicker outer wrapper held the inner tobacco firmly within. I took a quick whiff of the cigar before lighting it up and it smelled like a robust smoke. After lighting it up, and with the first draw, I found it to be a medium smooth smoke and a good call for the next hour of fishing.
  It took a little time but I hooked one momentarily and had another come off at my boots which was ok because I didn’t have to get my hands wet. I would take turns casting with one hand while the other I would keep in my pocket caressing the hot pad I kept inside. I worked the seam pretty good before going down creek a bit further. It didn’t take long before I returned and started changing patterns despite the coldness on my fingers when tying another on. Soon I would get another good hook set and another battle ensued. Another came to hand with a much meaner look.
 After hooking another I started up creek as the light began to fade a little more and the air got a bit colder. At the section of water where the woman was I cast a few times without any results. I hooked the hook into the keeper and headed up towards the van.
  The wind died down some as the evening approached. After changing out of my fishing clothes I took a swig of soda to quench my thirst. It was near 5:30 pm by now and my stomach was over being starved to death and just accepted the fact that my brain was in charge of when we could eat.

  After the van warmed up some and I felt comfortable I sat there in thought. My sister lives on the East side of Erie and I was going to take advantage of her asking me to stop by, eat and she welcomes me to stay the night. With a short drive from where I was at I had one more thing I had to do. I reached down into my traveling humidor and pulled out an Arturo Short Story Cameroon. There’s nothing like a bold tasting Cameroon wrapped cigar. The Fuente 4 1/2" 49 gauge cigar was superb. The darker shade wrapper held the tightly packed tobacco nicely. Each draw was smooth with great flavor of the inner tobacco. A quality short cigar for the short quality time I spent out just seemed to be the right smoke to end this short steelhead fishing story.