Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Diamondglass Jinx

The Diamondglass Jinx
(from the journal April 2008)

As I step into the April cool water of Tionesta Creek my hearing is attuned to the nature that surrounds me. The early sun hasn’t crested the far hill yet but light reflects off the overcast gray-blue cloudy sky. A few birds are chirping already to bring in the morning. A hoot owl, somewhere in the distance, gives its morning greeting. The turkey hunter’s translation is “who cooks for you”. I chuckle to myself and think of my friend Rusty out on Saturday morning calling to get a gobbler to answer.

Wading through the shallows, the riffling of the water across the stream is the only constant rhythmic sound. My first cast, with a woolly bugger, reaches the end of the shallower riffles and swings into the knee deep water. It’s more relaxing casting with my 9’ medium action Damon rod than my Scott rod I’ve used for the past 2 ½ days. It’s a bit heavier but today’s about relaxation than a challenge. The first sound of a four-wheeler, traveling up rte. 666, brings a smile to my face. Knowing they’re on their way to work and I’ll be fishing all day on this April Monday, exempt from the hoards of fishermen.
  My second drift a trout hits my bugger. Lackadaisically I’m late on the hook set but still feel some resistance. A rainbow hurdles a foot or so out of the water and I watch as my white woolly bugger flips skyward than falls back into the water as does the acrobatic rainbow. A few casts later I hook up and net another that wasn’t so lucky. My hearing is almost unconscious to the natural sounds around me except for a few passing cars and a rustle in the leaves across the stream. After catching a few more trout I light a cigar and tie on a swannadaze maggot. The sun now made the hill but is unforeseen behind the cloudy gray sky.

In the distance the sound of an American legend wakens my hearing. The low tone rumble of a Harley is heard as the sound reverberates through the valley. I picture the rider backing off the throttle as the bike descends down the small hill. The engine crackle and pops from the deceleration. Reaching the level straight away Mother Nature begs for mercy as the rider cracks the throttle wide open. The 1340 cc twin cam engine comes to life and rules the airwaves. Two bends later and some distance afar the echoing of the ‘V’ twin exhaust disappears. The smoke from my cigar lingers in the still morning air than dissipates before my eyes.

  Time ticks away as I methodically work the stream, as some may say. Making short casts at first and cast out further until I can no longer get good loops with my weight forward line. I take a few steps downstream than repeat the procedure to cover the water like a fine toothed comb. My thundercreek shiners and lighter color nymphs take dozen or so rainbows with a few brookies thrown in. I fish downstream to where the faster, rocky, water begins. Casting in slower pockets, I come across a palomino. I tease him until he is no longer interested in my offerings, or was he teasing me?
  The sun warms the air temperature and by noon a few brown stoneflies start to emerge. I'm about to break for lunch but with the rise of the stoneflies I decide to walk back upstream and make another pass through the area I fished earlier. A quick hit and retrieve of a brookie on a latex caddis gets me thinking about my Diamondglass rod.

I bought the rod early in February and have taken it out a couple of times already without catching a thing. The two hours on Minister Creek in early March and the 1-½ hours on the Farnsworth Branch last Sunday morning turned out to be just a walk with a new rod. I was beginning to think the rod is jinxed.

  After a second hit and miss I go back to the van and assemble my Diamondglass rig. Even though the 3 wt. isn’t right for the stream, the fishing has been easy and I need to break the ‘jinx’. The 7’ 3wt. feels like a hickory switch compared to the 9’ 5 wt totem pole I’ve been using.
  Back to the stream I drift a thundercreek shiner. After two misses I tie on a light sparkle nymph and cast in the same area and bring in two 9” rainbows consecutively. I learn real quickly that with the soft action rod I must set the hook with more pressure than my other rods. My stomach is growling for lunch but with the afternoon sun, now fully exposed, I notice flashes of fish nosing the pebbled bottom to my left. Seeing stoneflies coming off regularly now, I tie on a #12 brown stonefly nymph. It doesn't take long to hook into two 11”-12” rainbows. The fight on the flexible rod is super in fighting the active rainbows. I break for lunch and am excited about fishing Salmon Creek, for brookies, this afternoon with the 7’ Diamondglass.

 Salmon creek was stocked a week ago Monday. With the pleasant weekend I was sure the brookies that weren’t kept or left for dead seen every type of live bait, spinners and the like. They’ve most likely been close to being stepped on and maybe a taste of toothpaste or dish detergent from some unconcerned campers. The fishing will no doubt be challenging but if no one else was here earlier and I move with caution and stealth, I might be able to catch a few off guard.

  I find the stream running cold and clear. I spot 2 brook trout swimming in a rock pool on a large flat rock but refrain from casting to them. How they end up there, in the pool crevice, on the flat rocks is beyond me.
  I slowly wade the small narrow creek in ankle deep water down stream casting a latex caddis to shady areas along the banks. The first trout I catch is a 3”-4” native brookie hidden under a sunken limb down and across stream. I unhook him and he darts away as soon as he’s unleashed. I cautiously continue as I wade mid-stream. Peering down creek, a ways, I notice a gray mass moving outside of the faster run left of a rounded rock-stone. I figure 2 or even 3 brookies are clustered together in full view of the sun that is above and behind me. Hopefully the bright light is distorting their vision of my dark clothed figure. They’re a good distance and with the forested background I hope to blend in. I feel I’m in the best position, being in the middle of the creek, to drift a nymph into their vision without a quick line surge from the faster run of water in front and to the right of where I stand.
  I roll cast a latex caddis to the far bank, delicately, and watch the mustard color fly line slowly sweep the water before swiftly moving across the faster current. Each time I cast I let a little more line out to get a reaction from the trout. I can’t see the caddis because of the distance but I watch the fish for movement and my better judgment knowing the length of my leader and tippet, from my fly line, to get the fly in front of the fish. On the forth pass the trout moves to have a look-see but doesn’t follow. The distance is now calculated. The gray mass moved as one though instead of two! This could be a bigger fish then I first expected. The fifth drift doesn't excite the fish at all.
  I tie on a tailed swannadaze maggot. It’s a nymph I tie with white chenille and rib it with one strand of white floss on a curved nymph hook. I leave a tail of chenille, for movement, out from the hook bend. I roll cast this to the same spot as I did for the latex caddis towards the far bank. As the mustard fly line points to the fish, the fish follows into the faster run. I wait for a quick movement or a stop in the fly line but the line continues through the faster, deeper run to the shallow waters towards the right bank down stream from me. The fish returns to its lie. There is no doubt in my mind the fish is interested in my fly and must have missed it in the faster run of water. I add a little, little more weight and pull about 6 more inches of line out of my reel. This extra 6” I keep slack between my left line hand and the reel. I play my idea in my head and then roll cast to the far bank as I did before. When my mustard line points towards the fish I open my left fingers and thumb. The extra 6” of fly line slide through the guides and out from my rod. I clinch the line again and watch the arc of my fly line and tip. The arc, in my fly line, drifts towards the right but I notice the tip movement to the left. I raise my rod, yank and set the hook. The big fish explodes out of the faster run. Swirls of water surfaces with each fighting turn of the big brookie. The big fish torpedo upstream hesitates than swirls and heads back downstream. I move to the right rocky bank to fight the fish from the side. My Diamondglass bends and flexes deep with the fighting fishes every struggle. I’m not worried about the 3wt. rod as much as I do my knots and 6x tippet strength. After a battle of wits I finally get the fish close enough and pull my net out. I chuckle to myself, as there is no way the big brookie will fit in my small catch and release net. To me the biggest challenge was to figure out how to hook and play the fish, netting him is of second importance anyway. ‘The two big fillets sure would smell and taste great if I should be able to land it’ I consider. In a futile attempt the fish pulls away as I half-heartily try to net the fish. The only way is to bass lift him by getting a finger or thumb in its mouth. After a few tries I notice the hook is well into the roof of the trout’s mouth. With a little more lifting of the rod, and a tamer trout, I clamp into its open mouth. I cradle the fish into my waist and make my way to the bank. I unhook my fly and a green Joe’s fly spinner that’s hooked into its side. The brookie measures 17 ½”. The Diamondglass rod jinx is over, that’s for sure!

After putting the brookie in the cooler for a future fish dinner I return to the creek. In the next hour or two I hook up to a dozen or more unwary brookies by slowly, cautiously sight fishing the creek. Casting the delicate 3wt doubletaper Sylk line way in front of the sighted fish and letting the nymph slowly drift within its sight accounts for another successful birthday.

On my drive up the solid dirt road of Salmon Creek, towards Muzzete Rd., I light an Arturo Fuente. The only station on the radio plays an old Bob Seger tune “Against the Wind”
  The cigar smoke lingers before me and then is swept away through the slightly opened wing window of my old dodge van!



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Better Late than Never

Better Late than Never
Potter County
I hadn’t got to Potter County as I usually do in May. I had a feeling I missed a bunch of good hatches during that time. I figured it would be a little more of a challenge dry fly fishing in June, but as they say, “Better Late than Never!”
 There’s something about being a couple hundred miles from home on a mountain stream that I can relax. No phone, no calamity, no fuss, just doing what I love to do. Though I hope everything is safe back at the home front, it is here I am at peace.
The first step into the solitude of a mountain creek I feel the cold water flow around my legs. I listen to the morning chirping of birds and in the distant a crow caws out. The air is fresh and clean. The rippling water down creek sooths the soul and the tranquil setting, of forest and rising trout, cleanse the body and mind of adversity. A simple fly rod, a full box of flies and spools of tippet is all that is needed to enjoy the weekend here in Potter County.

  This morning I select my 7’ 6” Powell rod for the small creek fishing early on. The overcast sky doesn’t promise anything better as the day will wear on, but it doesn’t matter at this point. In my rain coat and top hat I’m embarking in what I came here for.
  Sporadically a couple of trout slap at the surface while I see others sip. There is nothing apparent I can see flying about or on the water. I got here late Friday evening and instead of fishing I took the time to check out both Kettle Creek and Cross Fork Creek for any hatches. There was a major Black Caddis hatch with a few tiny sulphurs and light Cahills mixed in. This morning I decide to use a Grannom pattern I use back home. It is a size smaller than the big caddis I seen yesterday but just maybe.
  Without much room to back-cast I keep my line hand out from my stomach as I raise the rod upward to cast. This creates less line out on my back cast. As I cast forward, with the flow of the creek, I let excess line slide through the guides. After my last back cast I swing the rod tip behind me and sharply forward pointing the rod tip to where I want the fly to go. The caddis imitation falls short of its mark but I let it drift out of the trout’s eye sight before a recast. I false cast once and let a little more line out. With the same motion the caddis drops a little bit further upstream and I watch it drift within the trout’s zone while bringing in slack line with my left hand. I see the flash of a trout towards my imitation as it rises for it after it had passed him. He snaps at it and the calm water becomes a battlefield after I set the hook.
  The water is now turbulent with life with swirls of water and a small wake follows the path of an exuberant trout. The fly line cuts through the water as if trying to keep up as the fly rod flexes towards the commotion.
  I turn the trout and draw in line as he gets closer. The trout rises out of the water with twists and turns in excitement. Its body shimmers in wetness and its maroon lateral line looks like a streak of lightning against its silvery sides. He reenters the water with a splash, creating a new sound in the morning calmness. The trout sweeps in a semi-circle away from me and swims upstream. The action below causes riffles upon the surface as he heads towards the far bank. I let him fight the rod resistance and give him some line. He then turns towards me with tugging pulls. I land my first trout of the day in the morning quietness of my forest surroundings.

With the commotion caused by the fight I now concentrate on the few fish sipping upstream to let the water settle.
  After a few casts up creek I find the sippers aren’t interested in my dry fly. Being that they are sipping I decide to knot on a smaller imitation. I look on my wool fly patch and see a small neatly tied Dark Cahill.
 My sidearm cast is smooth and arcs outward. Swinging the rod tip up creek I stop it abruptly and watch the fly line loop parallel to the water carrying the fly in tow. Just before my Cahill gets to the end of its flight, and wants to fall, I move the rod tip slightly towards my side of the creek bank. This lets the fly drop upon the surface with the tippet falling to the left side of my dry before arcing towards me. This way the fly, up creek, drifts towards me over the fish strike zone without the tippet directly above the trout. The plan works as a trout rises to take my Dark Cahill. It is a frisky small trout and it doesn’t take long to bring him to hand.
 With all the commotion the fish seemed to be a little more wary of my imitations and my presence. It takes time and a few different patterns to catch another. If I see the least little rise or dimple I wait about a minute before casting in the area.
As the sun tops the trees the water is clearer through my polarized shades. Fish still rose occasionally but to exactly what I still wasn’t sure. I changed patterns often and I would hook into one now and then. Just when I thought I had the right dry I’d get visual refusals. I stuck around till about 10:30. By then the sun was beating down on me and I felt as if I was in some kind of sauna suit. It was time head to the Kettle Creek to a section I always catch trout on dries.
  I fished Kettle before in June when the water was in this condition. Mostly terrestrials like ants and beetles were the choice of the pickiest trout. I’d just have to wait and see.

  For a Saturday I was quite surprised there were only a couple of vehicles in the parking area. It didn’t look like rain and there was barely a breeze. The water looked low and clear as glass. I put together my 4 piece Scott G2 for this session. I took a few extra cigars and a bottle of water being I wasn’t sure how long I’d be staying. Following the path along the creek I kept looking out for any risers along the way.

 I finally come across the section I want to take some time to fish. The flat water pool iss deep and I am sure trout would be lurking about out of the shallows from under the warmth of the noon day sun. I study the water and watch a few downed leafs drift atop the slow current. Out to my left a long log lay beneath the surface with tangled branches hidden deeper below. Behind this, way back towards the opposite bank, a lone trout rises and sucks unseen midges on the surface. I spend some time casting into the long stretch of the slow current pool without any success. I decide to move up creek to the shallower water that ripples along the far bank.

  Slowly I walk along the sandy stoned bank watching for any surface interruptions. The rising sun is finding its way through the forest and the rippling water glistens with brightness where the rays of sun filters through. I knot on a Light Cahill Para-dun and work it along the stretch of riffles. I was sure there would be a hungry trout somewhere who was unaware of my presence and would take the chance of a mid morning meal drifting by. It takes some time but when the quickness of a rising trout takes my drifting Cahill my reaction time is automatic in the hook set and soon I am bringing a small energetic trout towards me. He isn’t much but a pretty trout at that.

 I work the riffles, with an assortment of dries, until I come upon the deep flat water again. By now the sun has risen above the tall straight trees behind me. Its rays brighten the water clarity moving the earlier shadows back into the overgrown forest. I am ankle deep, along the shore, still presenting a Caddis out onto the slow pool ready to give up and maybe move down creek some. I catch movement, just in front of me, and let my eyes adjust to the underwater world before me.

  In the couple feet of water I see a nice size trout nosing the bottom. It’s pushing small pebbles about looking for food. It’s in no hurry and apparently not disturbed by my presence. I slowly, with the least amount of movement, reel in line. I spot another decent size trout following the first in the same manner. When my dry fly is just beyond them I flip it upward and back not wanting to disturb the water above them.

 I grab the leader and tippet and put the fly rod under my arm pit. As if I am a ghost, invisible to the trout, I begin to exchange the dry fly for a nymph in conscious unhurried movement not to spook the feeding trout. I knot on a small Hare’s Ear Flash Back to the 6x tippet. Taking the fly rod, from under my arm, I pull the leader out the length of my rod. One trout if directly in front of me about 15 feet as the other is a foot or so upstream. They are suspended just above the creek bed as if relaxing after a meal or watching for the next food morsel to drift be. With a slow back-cast and a forward snap of my wrist forward I let the nymph, line and leader, fall upstream from the two. I keep the rod shaft and tip horizontal with the water with my right hand. I use my left hand and try to guide the nymph towards the trout by manipulating the line in the slow current towards the bank.
  On the first cast the nymph drops to the bottom sooner than I expect and too far out from the trout. I bring the rod tip up and let the nymph pass them before my next upstream cast. The second and third cast I’m able to get the nymph closer to them and getting to read the underwater current flow. I am pretty sure my 4th drift through should put it nearer to them. As I’m preparing my next cast the trout start to nose the bottom again.
  As the Hare’s Ear drifts near the bottom I drop the rod tip and watch the nymph touch bottom, roll and stop upon the pebbled creek bed. The closest trout is nosing the bottom nearing my offering. Within sight I gently twitch the rod tip upward. The nymph rises off the pebbles slightly, falls, rolls and rests upon the pebbles. This catches the attention of the feeding trout. He takes his time drawing nearer to my nymph. His nose…..

It’s June. Somewhere there’s someone on an airplane talking about their fishing excursion in Alaska. Somewhere someone is bringing up their bad experience fishing the flats off of Nassau Island. I’m sure someone out there is throwing Cleo’s to fish off Presque Isle in Lake Erie… In my world right now….

  He noses the nymph and as soon as I see it disappear I raise the rod with authority. The rod tip dips, the line pulls and I feel the strength of the trout rushing up creek through the tensioned line between my fingers. The Medium action G2 flexes and arcs with the escaping trout as it takes line off the spool. It turns in an instant, towards the far wall, and darts with shooting speed. I angle the rod, opposite his path, trying to slow him down. He reaches his limit and than scurries down creek into the deepness of the pool. I take in some line and keep tension between my fingers as the rod bounces with his underwater antics. We wrestle, for what seems like eternity, until he finally weakens under the pressure. I reel him nearer and I have a feeling I caught my biggest trout for the day.
 After I released the fine brown I reel in and take a few seconds to capture the moment. I feel my body absorbing the noon day sun. I feel a cool breeze across my bare skin. I feel the peacefulness being a part of nature. I reach into my shirt pocket and feel a fine rolled cigar at my finger tips.

 The rest of the day I don’t remember much. It’s always that way when I catch the big one. I’ll remember the details of that catch but not much detail afterwards. I know I continued on with dry flies casting about. I did catch a few more. I remember smoking a few more stogies out in the wilds and remember not coming across another fisherman as far back from civilization where I was. Afterwards I remember eating at the small restaurant in Cross Forks in the evening and talking to a fellow who remembered me from a years ago. He told me how the hatch in May was great and the many fish he caught on dries. I remember drinking a beer where I had parked for the night and smoking my last stogie of the day.

  As I rest upon my sleeping bag, in the warm June evening, under the star lit night, I think about my big catch earlier in the day. I think about how I was late this year for the great hatches. I was glad I made up my mind to come up this way in June anyhow. The peacefulness, the quietness is always worth it. As they say “better late than never!”



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

8 Point and a Savage

8 point and a Savage
Most of my stories are about fishing. This one, though I camped out next to a trout stream, is about hunting.

  Being laid off the day after Thanksgiving I was pretty depressed. The only good thing, at the time, was that deer season opened the following two weeks. I packed the van on Friday night and headed out Saturday to camp along a trout stream and hunt the Allegheny National Forest. There was a heavy snow fall before Thanksgiving and I was hoping my van could make it to the camping area over any snow covered or icy back roads. I had enough eats for the week and there was a spring nearby should I need more water. It was suppose to warm up by the end of the week so as long as I got there I figured I’d make it out ok by Thursday or Friday or….

The side road along the creek had been partially plowed leading the way back to the gas well pump station but there were plenty of ice patches along the road in the shady areas. I carefully drove down the road and was lucky enough that the road was dry where I wanted to pull up into the camp sight. This gave the new Good Year tires a good start and gripped the 2-3 inches of snow without spinning as I backed up into place. I always try to face downhill when I park the van so I’ll always get momentum when I’m ready to leave. After setting up camp and getting a fire pit ready for the evening I walked down to the creek.

 A sheet of ice covered a slow stretch of water. From there the water gurgled through an open patch of ice that opened into a shallow riffle. Ice patches partially covered the shallows and snow covered tree branches that overhung. The snow along its banks was pure white that made a picture perfect setting worth framing.
I picked this area to hunt because a couple of weeks ago hunting turkey I spotted an eight point, with one broken tine, up on the hillside. I had never hunted the particular area in deer season but I had a place to camp out so this was my plan.

With the sound of gurgling stream water in the background, and snow all around, I cooked up some Italian sausage over the charcoal grille. I also heated up some Bush’s ‘Homestyle’ baked beans and was accompanied by a couple of blondes.

I finished off the evening with a Criollo wrapped Habana Cazadores as I sat next to the fire under the starless night with Captain Morgan and Dr. Pepper.

 Sunday I was up early. Breakfast was a couple of reheated sausage patties, a few blueberry muffins and a hot cup of tea. About 10 I got some warm clothes on and headed up the hill through the forest for some scouting. The snow was a soft crunch with every step I took but I made it a point to move slowly. As the morning warmed small ice balls and patches of snow fell from the tops of pines and bare hardwood branches throughout the day. As I traveled up the hill I’d find used deer trails, of two or three deer tracks. I found a good place to make a stand and cleared a spot next to a large tree. I figured I’d use this stand for the morning till about 10. Up the hill, in more dense cover, I cleared another area that I planned on moving to after 10. Up on top of the mountain I followed the fire trail and came across a flock of turkey on a down slope. This was right where I hunted them the two weeks before that they didn’t show. They scattered about with two flying to the tree tops in the distance. I was surprised I found no deer tracks crossing the fire trail so I didn’t plan on this place to be a good spot to sit on Monday.
  Sunday evening I fried up sliced potatoes and onions over the Coleman stove as a deer steak cooked slowly over the charcoals. With a nice fire going I finished off the evening with an Oliva Connecticut Reserve before an early bedtime.
 In the van I laid out warm clothes for Monday morning before crawling under my sleeping bag for the night.

  5:00am comes early but since I went to bed around 9:30pm I was well rested and ready. I had potato bun sandwiches, a tradition, Snickers and a few other snacks in the fanny pack along with 4 small boxes of Hi-C. After getting all my gear on I slung the 300 Savage lever action over my shoulder. I Crossed the road and headed up the hill following my tracks in the snow, from the day before, guided with the beam of my flashlight. I got to my first stand earlier than I expected. I loaded the 300 Savage, took off the scope covers and sat on my hot seat waiting for daylight. I listened to vehicles traveling along the road below as other hunters were on their way to their lucky spots. I heard no vehicles stop or doors slam so I figured I’d be alone on this hillside.

There is a good and a bad thing hunting alone in an area. The bad is there wouldn’t be anyone else in the woods to push deer and get them to move so I might not see many. The good thing is the deer won’t be spooky and I may get a better chance seeing antlers if they are moving slowly without being wary.

  I stayed put until about 9:30am without seeing a deer. There were a few shots up high across the road and a few in the distance that echoed through the valley. None were close enough to get me too excided or keep me on high alert. I usually don’t move this early on opening day but being alone I decided to move up to my next post.
  In the dense cover I watched two squirrels scurry about through the treetops. Softened snow fell to the earth from the tree tops as the day warmed up above freezing. After awhile I figured deer might not get pushed through the dense cover so I decided to take my time and still hunt. I slowly made my way to the top of the mountain and sat occasionally at deer crossings that I came across.
  All of the deer tracks were going along the ridges and not straight up and down. This told me that surely the deer weren’t being spooked into a running escape. I decided to walk slowly along the hillside watching the bench below and forward.
  I was moving a few steps at a time when I seen a white tail flash and focused on the brown and white rump of a whitetail about 100 yards out through the trees. I stopped instantly and rotated my 3X9 scope to about 8 power without looking at the scope. The deer was slowly moving away but I thought I seen a tine bobbing from above its back. The deer didn’t appear to hear or scent me as it casually moved but I needed a better angle and space to visually see its head.

This is the first deer I had seen so far. It is one of those moments I needed to get a better angle, pick out a clearing and make sure it’s a buck quickly and as quietly as possible.

  I moved forward and picked out an opening between two trees I hoped the deer would move through. I stopped and had the 300 Savage steadied between my left hand and tree focused through the opening. Between me and where I hoped the deer would show there was a twisted vine that hung down from the tree tops. Between me and the vine was a broken tree branch that curved upward and than back down to the snow covered ground.
  As I waited patiently the first thing I saw through my scope were tall tines above its head. The buck continued to move through the opening and soon I seen brown in my crosshairs. It wasn’t the easiest estimated 100 yard shot with the vine and limb but I knew I might not get another chance of a better shot or seeing this buck again. The Savage boomed after I squeezed the trigger. After the recoil it was if the buck disappeared. I didn’t see it fall nor heard any crashing of sticks after clicking the lever action, loading another round in the chamber. “Could I have missed?” There was a good chance I knew.
  I kept my eyes wide open focusing through the forest for signs of movement. I waited about 15 minutes than slowly and cautiously walked to where I shot at the buck with the vine as a reference point. I came across the lone deer tracks and found no blood on the white snow. I looked back at the vine and tried to visualize from where I was when I shot. Not satisfied I hung a red handkerchief on a limb and walked back to where I shot. From where I took the shot I relocated the vine and the opening. The red handkerchief was about 25 feet to the right. I hung a strip of toilet paper on the tree limb and walked back to the deer tracks. With a better reference I found the tracks but still no blood. I put another strip of toilet paper on a limb and went back and grabbed the handkerchief. This all took about 15 minutes or so. Slowly I followed the lone tracks and found deer hair along their path but still no sign of blood.
  I knew I aimed above the curved branch which should have put the shot into the upper body behind its shoulder. I glanced ahead trying to pick out blood along the path of the tracks. Again I slowly moved trying not to crunch unforeseen sticks or branches below the snow cover. I stopped now and then looking down the hill watching for movement. Another 20 yards I seen red dots on the snow cover and further the snow was covered in red. It looked as though the buck fell, got up and kept moving beyond. I scoped the scene in front of me but couldn’t spot the deer in the snow. When I got to the red snow I looked down the hill and seen where the buck had slid. Part way down the hill I seen a full set of tall tines above the head of the buck as it was butted up against a tree keeping it from sliding anymore.
  As I walked nearer to him I was amazed at the big solid rack for a mountain buck. The 300 Savage had come through once again! After moving him to a flatter location, so he wouldn’t slide, I leaned my rifle up against a tree and put my orange hunting parka in full view over the barrel. I looked at my watch and it was 1:30. I than rolled up my sleeves and began to field dress the deer.

  It wasn’t a hard drag down hill. At times I had to slow the deer down because it started to slide a little faster than I could keep up. At the leveler bottom of the mountain I knew the road wasn’t very far off. Getting to the road I only drug the buck about 20 yards along the snow covered roadside when a red pick up drove towards me in the direction I was headed. The woman driver, after taking a couple of pictures with her phone, helped me to get the deer on the tail gait and drove us to my camp sight which wasn’t very far. She got a couple of pics with my camera of me and the buck before she drove off.
 By now I was pretty wet from the constant snow melt falling from the tree tops and sweating from dragging the deer. I couldn’t wait to get dry clothes on but know I had to figure how I was going to get this big boy up in a tree to cool off. After getting it up as high as my strength allowed the neck and head was still on the snowy earth. I tied it up and waited for the next vehicle to pass by.
  I motioned the driver to stop and my luck it was an older gent. I told him my situation and I expected some younger guys to help me out. He assured me, at 73 years old, he was in good shape and could help me out. After parking in front of my van he got out and he did look fit but was only about as tall as me at 5’ 7”. He admired the chocolate rack and tall tines. We got the deer as high as we could and I tied off the rope to the tree. We talked a bit and he said he’s been hunting these mountains for many years and that I should be proud of the 8 point buck. I thanked him and he went on his way.

After changing into dry clothes I celebrated with a Capt. Morgan and Dr. Pepper before preparing dinner.
  I heated up cut deer meat in egg noodles and gravy. After cleanup I got a warm glowing fire going and set my tired body in a camp chair. I relaxed with a Hobgoblin and a Gurkha Warlord. What could be more fitting on a moonless, starless, dark night within the Allegheny National Forest away from the modern world…alone!!?


Spread; 16 3/4"
Brow; 7"
G1; lft 7 1/2", rt. 8 1/2"
G2 7 1/2"
Base 5"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tuesday's Gone

Tuesday’s gone...
              But not Forgotten

 After handing a Cazadores Churchill to Bings, I stuffed my own shirt pocket with a Sinclair Vintage for the morning. I also grabbed a Habana Cazadores, Carolina Reserve and a Gurkha Beauty for later on. It was about 8:00am, breezy, overcast and a chilly 42 degrees. We dressed warm, with rain gear, and headed down the trail for some Tuesday steelhead fishing.

  The water was cloudy with only dark shades of boulders being noticed beneath. The flow of water was as good to almost perfect which should have the steelhead spread out along its path. The first big hole produced nothing but I was able to see a couple of oblong shapes moving around beneath. We continued down creek and crossed through the shallows to the far bank. Slowly we fished the seams in the shallower water within the rumbling current.
As the sky lightened I was able to distinguish the dark outline of holding fish from the dark sides of boulders and rocks in the shallow current. When I did spot a steelhead there was usually one or two not far off. They were holding tight, almost motionless beneath the oncoming current. Bings and I picked away at them and eventually one would be hooked and the fun of fighting a steelhead in the current began. Keeping the rod upward was a must for keeping tippet and leader from dragging against any sharp rock edge. Though the water we were fishing in was only a couple feet deep at best the fish had the advantage with its strength and ability to force the issue at any time. We each lost a couple and missed quick hook sets but landed some dandies before moving on down creek.

 The deeper pools were still stained or shaded enough from the rising sun to not be able to see the bottom. I got a glimpse of a few moving oblong shapes in a semi-deep run with good flow. I drifted a black Woolly Bugger I had on without a strike. Not wanting to change flies I mentioned to Bings about the fish and left him to see if he could catch them while I moved on down creek into the faster water. It wasn’t long before Bings hooked up and landed a nice steelhead. Just before I turned a bend, in the creek, I looked up and Bings was still fishing the tail-out. I figured, with the day brightening up, he must have seen more steelhead in the section and decided to stick around.

Around the bend 2 guys, with conventional rods and bait, were fishing in a choppy flow that rippled into a wavy current near the far side cliff. This widened to a deeper stretch with good flow for a nice drift. At the tail end another fellow, with a fly rod, was fishing the tail out. He was concentrating as if he was able to see the fish in the shallower water. I started just below the conventional rod guys and slowly worked my way down towards the tail-out with streamers, sucker spawn and nymphs. I saw the fly guy at the tail-out hook up with a steelhead that took him into the rocky shallow waters below where he lost it. He fished the tail-out for another 20 minutes or so before giving up and continuing on down creek. From up creek I drifted my offering towards the tail-out keeping my distance.

 My first hook up came on a sucker spawn drifting under an indicator. The indicator dipped instantly and I yanked upward for the hook set. With good forceful headshakes the steelhead came to the surface the than shot towards the far bank. Fish figures, from under a tree, scattered everywhere as their shallow wake was evident. My fish turned down stream but nearer the shallower water it cut across towards me with lightening speed. I’m sure it was that sudden surge towards me that left too much slack in the line. Once I got line in it was too late, the steelhead shook the hook, and swam free.
I worked the section from the middle of the run to the tail-out for the rest of the day. The guys fishing bait were having a good old time hooking up often. I, on the other hand, only hooked up occasionally.
 It seemed I needed the right pattern and color at the right location with a good drift. Steelhead always confuses me with their selective habits. Trout I can figure out most of the time by examining what’s flying around or crawling about. What I find under streamside rocks or what time of year it is. Steelhead fishing, at least as I can tell, has neither rhyme nor reason. What works one day may not work the next. I found what color works in the morning has a good chance of working in the evening on the same stream but it may take some time to find that magic combination of color and pattern.

I looped a cast a good distance that landed the streamer into the far side of the wavy current. With a quick mend the indicator moved toward me, settled and started to drift with the flow. 3 oblong fish shaped objects were moving upstream, from the shallow tail-out, through the flat water into the wavy current. My indicator dipped with a pull up creek. I yanked back the rod and I knew one of them oblong shaped fish were on the end of my line. I tightened my fingers around the cork grip as the fish continued up stream. When the line tensioned tighter, that bowed the rod into the middle, the steelhead stopped and started to jolt and tug the line that rattled the 7 weight rod tip like a tall palm tree amidst a hurricane. He tugged relentlessly trying to free himself from the hook. It seemed like minutes before he torpedoed down creek towards the shallow riffles. Afraid I would lose him, if he got into the rocky shallows, I palmed the spool, slowing it down, until I applied enough pressure to stop it. The rod tip bowed like a tree snare waiting to be sprung. Within seconds the steelhead made a wild dash up creek. As it passed me I watched as its oblong body shot through the water like a torpedo on target.
“Coming up” I said loud enough for the guy to my left to hear me, as the fish took line, so he knew the new course the fish had taken.
  He brought in his pencil bobber quickly and stood and watched us battle it out. The fish rose to the surface with a splash, spun facing downstream and proceeded hastily leaving a swirl behind. As the melee started to slow I could feel my forearm muscles and the tightness in my fingers upon the cork grip.
  In the shallow tail out the steelhead decided to swim towards the far bank at the same time I started to wade down creek away from the brush behind me. Wrestling with the steelhead I was able to gain more control and got him to hesitantly swim towards me. With aggressive rod movement I kept him moving towards me every time he veered off course. I brought him to the streamside shallows where I was able to get ahold of him. He was a nice heavy steelhead with good girth.

After that I caught a couple more steelhead but none as aggressive like the one pictured.

 As evening approached I made my last cast into the tail-out and decided to call it quits. I headed up creek with the other fellows towards the place I entered in the early morning. I never came across Bings and when I got to my van his truck was gone.

 It was still bright enough to see under the cloudy evening sky.

 In the confines of my van I changed into street clothed as the Dodge 318 engine warmed up. Exiting off of  interstate 90 I took route 89 south. Somewhere in the darkness I reached into my traveling humidor and selected an Oliva ’O’ to enjoy on the drive home. The cigar was smooth and superb that burned evenly to a long white ash.

Another good day of steelhead fishing worth reminicing about!





Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Fine Steelhead Specimen

A Fine Steelhead Specimen

  What started out as a 40 some degree morning became a near 60 degree afternoon. The autumn is surely here as the landscape is dressed in fall colors. The sun had been shining throughout and now is gently starting to set. The water has been clear and low with the steelhead quite spooky throughout the day and not very aggressively hungry. There had been many fishermen up and down the creek enjoying the beautiful day but the catching hasn’t been the greatest for anyone that I had talked with.

 “Just one more before I go” I thought, as I light a light up a VS Robusto Primaros and start to make the long walk up creek to where I entered this morning.

For the clear water conditions I thought I did fairly well so far. I went through every color of bugger and triple threat during the day. When I finally knotted on a ‘Blood Line’ Triple is what the steelhead seamed to be more interested in. I figured I had fairly hooked up at least 8 times though I only landed 2. The biggest being a solid girth steelhead that took the ‘Blood Line’ on a dead drift. It took me down creek with good force and a good warfare fight. Another fisherman gave me a hand netting the steel for me. I let him have the gold spoon spinner that was already attached to the side of its mouth. Evidently the heavy fish had been hooked before and broke off.
The two guys had been fishing bait while I was fishing up creek from them most of the day. They were hooking up now and then over a pod of steelhead in a slow current pool but it wasn’t easy pickings.

 As I walk upstream, upon the leafy sand and stony bank, I keep myself well distant from the narrow sections of flow. The fishing traffic earlier was heavy but now, being around 4:40; most fishermen have left for the day. I figure I might be able to find a few steelhead in the shallow riffles that may be calmed down enough to take a Woolly Bugger. I keep my vision up stream in hopes of seeing one before it spots me.

A steelhead sits in a small wavy pool looking into a good stream of water that has narrowed towards him between a couple of big rocks. The water he sits in is only about a foot and a half deep and his dark body sticks out like a sore thumb under the bright sun. I’m a bit back behind his right side out of his vision. I false cast line, with plenty of room behind me, and then drop the bugger up creek to his left. The surface current is quicker than I anticipated and the bugger begins to skim the surface water towards him. To my surprise he rises and tries to grab the bugger as it drifts the surface. I am so flabbergasted I’m way late on a hook set and the steelhead drops below without my bugger. I cast a few more times in his vicinity but he doesn’t budge. I do figure he still is hungry and plan to let him rest and try again shortly.

Three steelhead appear to be playing, chasing one another, in the shallower tail out that feeds the rocky riffles. I keep my distance and move ahead of them for a better angle. They avoid my bugger no matter how I swim it or drift it towards them. I head up creek a ways but find no steelhead in the deeper run. I walk back, this time forward of the fish I missed earlier in the riffles, and hope to get a deeper drift to him.

  The bugger plops in the tail out and I guide it into the riffles towards the fish. The glare, off the surface, is too bright and distorts my vision of the bugger so I keep my eyes on the fish and fly line. I have a good idea the distance between my fly line and bugger and let a little more slack out and lower the rod tip. The steelhead swims to its right quickly, as if searching, and starts to slowly return. Without any indication that the fish has my bugger, I sharply pull the rod to my left and see the steel's head nudge to its right with the rod pull. I immediately raise the rod and pull fly line down the rod guides to keep the line taunt. The steelhead swats its tail and pulls away for an escape. As I feel the rod flex towards him he gains enough momentum to propel himself up out of the foot or so of water aiming down stream. A couple of feet down from him is a flat rock that protrudes above the surface at an angle. The fish lands flat on the flat rock like a fish being tossed on a plate at the dinner table. It flips its tail, fins and curves its body frantically till it succeeds to flop itself off the rock and back into the riffles. It takes line and swims behind the exposed rock. I see a glimmer of my leader, reflecting light, swipe across the exposed rock, so I lift the rod from any other danger as the fish begins to swim downstream with the current flow.
  In deeper water it rises with headshakes while I keep tension on him and let him tire out. After these antics I force him to my side of the bank and move closer to the water as I wind line in. Near my boots it attempts to make one last escape with quick jolts, I feel the rod relax in my hands and watch the steelhead swim away with my bugger. I discover abrasion on the remaining tippet where the line broke.

  Not quitting just yet I nip off the rest of the 5x fluorocarbon and knot a fresh piece on as well as a fresh Woolly Bugger. The sun is setting a little lower and is now casting shadows upon parts of the water.

 I come across a dark color steelhead within the shadows of the tree line. He’s out from an overhang and smack dab in the middle of a good flow of current. I keep my distance and move quite a ways upstream from him but still within my vision. I roll cast my bugger out into the flow and watch how the current moves and drifts the bugger. Another cast and drift I watch my bugger pass by the steelheads right and maybe out of his vision. I add a little weight, to get it down a little deeper, and I take in some line and cast again.

  I let the bugger get to the end of the drift, straightening out my line, and cautiously let it drift back towards the steelhead. After a couple of nudges forward, to give the marabou tail a little more action, I let the bugger drift back and see the steelhead swim forward. Wham, I pull up and rearward on the rod and feel the aggressive fish on the other end. I move away from the water as the rod flexes and the spool spins letting out tensioned line. The fish is fooled and doesn’t like it a bit. He turns down creek and this time I keep the rod tip high to avoid any unseen sharp objects. It pauses briefly for some erratic body jolts than proceeds up creek and away looking for a safe place to get away. I keep a good angle in the rod as it applies pressure from the side of the swimming fish. I bring in some line as the fish swims to a deeper section just out from a tree that angle upward towards the sky. I keep good tension on the rod and have the line pinched between my finger and cork grip waiting for his next move. He gives the line a tug or two as if seeing if I’m still paying attention. Heck, I tug back and move the rod down creek trying to force him to follow. He wildly appears out of the deeper water and skirts the surface through the shallow riffles. I begin to feel him weaken and start to wind in line when possible or let him fight the tightened drag when need be. Stepping into the shallows I guide him between me and the bank. I reach for him and notice his pretty pink belly and beautiful color. "Such a fine looking fish" I say to myself.

I notice that he took my bugger into his mouth so I carefully do a little outpatient surgery to remove the bugger without harming the beautiful specimen.

 I’m well satisfied, hook the bugger to my hook keeper and enjoy the autumn scenery as I make my way through the forest towards the van.

  A fine Brickhouse Torpedo graces my lips as I take the exit south of I90. The natural sweetness of the outer leaf makes for an enjoyable smooth smoke for the way home.


Friday, November 1, 2013

One Fly 2013 Challenge

One Fly 2013 Challenge
We weren’t here for a field trip!
 Every year, for some time, a group of fishermen, and women, have been getting together for a fishing event for steelhead in Erie. It’s a friendly competition that involves two player teams. The object is to see how many points each team can accumulate by catching fish. This year we started at 8:00am and must be back by 2:00pm. The team with the most points wins bragging rights ‘till next year. You must fish on an Erie tributary or the lake shore.
  Points are accumulated whereas you get 1 point for each inch of steelhead caught and 2 points for every inch of brown trout. The real challenge is you are only allowed to use one fly, of your choice, for the entire 6 hours. You can choose any fly but once you knot it on it is the only one you can use to accumulate points. You are not allowed to add leader or tippet. If you lose your fly you are out of the competition unless you can retrieve the fly and add it to the remaining leader/tippet. Any points you accumulate before you lost your fly is counted towards the team score. Another challenge is to decide what fly you are going to use for the days event. This is a challenge since you have to pick your choice of fly before daylight. Before you even have a chance to see the color or conditions of the water.
 This year I partnered up with a bingsbaits. He’s been steelhead fishing, with a fly rod, for some time and has a lot of time and experience on the Erie tributaries.
Bings decided on his own pattern of a Triple Threat Emerald Shiner. I decided on one of my own Triple Threat Patterns. We planned on fishing Elk Creek and what section we would fish as we waited to be released. There were about 15 people that showed this weekend so I figured either 7 or 8 teams. The reigning champs were there, for the past two years, and they were in good spirits and ready for the competition.
We parked at an old bridge, assembled our fly rods, put our gear on and started on our way. There were only a couple of people already fishing the slow pool of deep water below the bridge. The water was cloudy and visibility wasn’t more than a few inches. Our plan was to fish our streamers along the creek as we slowly move down stream hoping to come across a good section and hoping the water will clear up later on. I don’t usually depend on a Triple Threat pattern in cloudy water but it is one of my favorite patterns for steelhead and I was hoping the water would clear up sooner than later. I never fished this upper section before but down creek was one of my favorite sections on Elk Creek. Bings has fished this section a few times and we both felt confident as we fished our way down creek.

  We hadn’t got a strike for some time as we fished in good looking sections we thought would hold steelhead. We couldn’t find any steelhead in the shallower riffles and it didn’t look as though the water was clearing up much at all. The weather was cold with a strong wind constantly blowing. This not only made casting a bit of a problem but also caused many fallen leaves to flow and accumulate upon the surface.
 About an hour passed when Bings hooked the first steelhead, momentarily. He was fishing a tail out with the Triple Threat under an indicator. He called ‘fish on’ and I looked downstream as his fly rod was bent and a tight line extended straight into the water. The fish let loose within seconds and our first points vanished in the cloudy pool. Within the next half hour Bings hooked up three more times in the same tail-out. He had two good fights and had the steelheads on for some time but some how each time the steelheads found there way not to be handled. Though this was all disappointing we didn’t give up hope. In fact this gave me more confidence that my own Triple Threat will work in these cloudy conditions though I hadn’t had a strike yet.
Down creek Bings finally got a hook up and found a way to land the steelhead. It measured 26 ½“. We were on the board with a good score and still quite a few hours left. The creek water finally started to clear up but we still couldn’t see any images of fish.
 As Bings moved down towards the shallower water I moved to where he caught his steelhead. I was using an indicator but just didn’t feel good about the movement or the depth I was fishing even though I moved the indicator up and down my leader. I don’t use an indicator for trout when I fish a streamer but steelhead fishing I’ve seen many people do, so I give it a try. Also I felt, being the water was cloudy and I didn’t know the depth, was a safer bet not to get a bottom snag as without. Still no strikes for some time I took the indicator off and took my chances.
  Casting under a tree I mended a little line upstream and let the slow current carry the streamer down creek. I felt a slight hesitation and picked up the rod not sure if I had a snag or fish. It’s a delicate situation that can either put points on the board or lose your fly and lose the chance to help your partner. I felt a slight pull and watch as a sliver fish rolled down creek just below the surface right in the same area my streamer should be. I never got a good hook set and my first possible points swam away.
  A few casts later, back under the tree, I got a good grab that I was sure a fish. I yanked back with my wrist and felt the fish resistance instantly and quickly we were in a battle. I called out to Bings, “Fish on” as I played the fish with confidence. I had a 4x tapered leader on with 4X Fluorocarbon tippet. By the time Bings got up close I had the steelhead on the bank and he measured it at 21 ½”.
  We fished this section for sometime. I’d walk upstream a bit and fish it down to the tree and Bings would start at the tree and fish it down towards the shallows.
  I was up creek fishing the good wavy current flow that entered into the long stretch when I glanced down creek and seen Bings trying to unstuck his streamer caught on the bottom of the creek bed. He was short tugging on the rod but nothing that looked too strenuous. Suddenly I heard a sharp snap and turned to see Bings reaching for a section of rod and than holding two pieces of his rod in his hands. He had broken his fly rod about a foot up from the cork handle and had lost his fly in the process. He was quite discouraged being that it was a rod he had built some time ago. I told him I had a back up rod in my van that he could use while I continued to fish. He was out of the competition of course but still could fish. This put the pressure on me but I was still confident I could get at least one more steelhead for more points.
  The roll cast put my streamer midstream and I mended up creek in hopes to get my streamer down along the bottom. I knew time was passing by and I had to take my chances with fishing deeper. The fly line started to arc and I wristed the rod up and felt resistance but it didn’t give. I had a snag and it felt pretty solid. I looped fly line beyond the snag and lifted the rod and line upwards in hopes to free it. When that didn’t work I made a decision to do my best to get the streamer free. I walked down stream while letting a good 20 yards of fly line out as I reached a point where I could cross the creek. I carefully walked along the shale extruding from the base of the cliff while winding in the excess fly line. When I got nearer to the stuck streamer it popped up without much pressure. I felt better and fished my way up creek until I could cross back over.
On the other side I again proceeded to fish the same section while waiting for Bings to get back. A sharp tug at the end of the drift and a good yanking hook set began another battle with one more fish. We battled a bit and I managed to get another steelhead to the bank. I looked around and seen a fellow down creek see me land the steelhead. I measured the steel at 23” and lead him back into the cloudy water. Within minutes Bings came around the bend and walked towards me.
“Add 23” to our score” and I added, “Just caught one just before you came around the bend.”
I felt good with three fish to our credit but one more sure would make me feel better about getting in one of the top three places. It was around 11:45 when we decided to head up creek and fish our way towards the van. The water was clearing some but not as fast as we’d liked. At a slow deep pool, around a downed tree, a few fishermen were fishing without any room to butt in. I tried to get a strike at the tail-end, where Bings hooked up, but failed. Up creek a ways was a section that looked promising. It was a straight stretch with a ledge that dropped off about a couple of feet from the far bank. I had talked to another fisherman on the way down and he told me that that section usually held fish. With the water not so cloudy I was hoping to manage another steelhead.
There was the guy, I had talked to earlier, fishing the tail end of the run near a small tree that extended out of the water against the shoreline bank. I moved up creek a ways and worked my Triple down towards him. Bings was slowly fishing his way up creek.
  I gave a gentle sidearm cast that let the Triple fall delicately near the far bank without much of a splash. I mended up creek and watched as my leader and tippet began to drift with my streamer along the barely visible ledge below the water surface. As the line straightened out down creek I felt the grab, yanked the rod rearward and another steelhead was on the other end. The steelhead lunged towards the far side and swam rapidly up creek, stopping once with a few surface head shakes before continuing on. It took line up creek and I palmed the reel to add a little more resistance to where I had the drag set. He stopped his run and struggled a bit beneath. This gave me time to tighten the drag a few clicks tighter before pulling the rod down creek forcing him to follow. He turns and doggedly swam down stream with the slow current trying to keep from my side of the bank. He didn’t travel very far down creek from me when the resistance got too much. He surfaced and splashed around a bit. I looked down creek momentarily and the other fisherman was standing, watching me battle with the steelhead. When I finally got him to the bank safely I breathed a sigh of relief and measured his length. I unhooked the steelhead and let him swim freely back into the cloudy water.
  By the time I got to the bridge it was nearing 1:15. Bings stood on the bridge looking over. There were about 5 guys fishing the deep water. I gave a few casts out and stripped the streamer in without a strike before calling it quits.
 At the pavilion there were a few teams already back by the time we showed up. A few minutes after that the reigning champs pulled in and started to get there fishing gear off. We sat around BS’n and drinking beer waiting for the other teams. We got caught up in story telling that it wasn’t until 2:30 that we decided to ask for the results. Bings and I pulled off the win with 4 steelhead caught for a total of 94 ½ points as I recall. Second place went to the reigning champs of The Drake and DarDys with 40+ points.

 Sure there weren’t many teams participating this year but with 90+ points I felt we did pretty darn well for the conditions and may have still won with more participants. A win's a win and we won it fair and square, broken rod and all!!


 Bings with a fish on in the morning

Friday, October 18, 2013

King Me

King Me

 5 guys from Pennsylvania, a cottage overlooking Lake Ontario NY, with a bar and restaurant within short walking distance. A fuel/general store/bait tackle shop to and from our destination and King Salmon fishing within a 20 mile jaunt!
Need I say more?
 We left Erie around 2:00am Thursday morning. By 6:00am we were in the middle of the river waiting for enough light to shine to see where we would be casting. We all hoped to be fishing over a big run of brown trout that my fellow fishing buds had fished over last year at this time. It turned out the big run of browns never showed but the King Salmon kept us all occupied.

While the others fished with $400.00-$600.00 Sage rods and such I bought a LL Bean Streamlight Ultra. The two piece 9 foot 8 weight was a mere $125.00. Most people that had fished there said that an 8 weight should suffice and, being I wasn’t sure how much use I’d get out of the 8 weight otherwise, I went for something inexpensive, a known brand and a warranty. I found out it wasn’t any more of a challenge to cast, fish, or bring in a big King as the other high dollar rods. With an Allen Alpha reel with 8 weight line I was well equipped in my mind.

  The first morning we fished together and only a couple of Kings were hooked. It’s not hard to illegally snag a King Salmon unintentional. The 25” to 30“+ fish were practically everywhere. Bouncing an egg pattern or nymph along the bottom sometimes caused a fouled hook in a tail or pectoral fin of the big fish. Even in the faster current one might happen to accidentally hook one in the dorsal fin or tail as the fish swims by. If so the usual thing was to break the leader unless you wanted the fly back. If that was the case you usually had a long struggle that sometimes ended with a lost fly anyway.

I heard it took 5 to 10 minutes to get these big King’s in. I found it depends on how much backing they take out. While fighting them it may not seem like 10 minutes but when they decide they aren’t going to move it seems like seconds tick by very slowly as you wait for them to DO SOMETHING.
  As the days went on we split up and fished new sections of water. By evening we were usually back together again fishing along a blown down tree that became a honey hole.

 My first good real exciting challenge was catching a King in the faster wavy current. I wasn’t sure if the Kings would take streamers but after seeing spey flies in the bait/tackle shop I figured they would. I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and watched a King grab it. Fighting the King Salmon in the riffling water reminded me kind of when I was a kid about 8 year’s old flying a kite. I remember a couple times my kite would be up in the air soaring around and the wind began to become erratic and strong. I would play the kite trying to avoid the trees and telephone pole wires as it whipped through the air not wanting it entangle with limbs or wireS. Sometimes the wind was so strong I remember my feet barely holding onto the ground. At times I would sit and hold on tightly, with all my 8 year old strength, to the kite string spool hoping the string wouldn’t break and having enough strength not to leave go.
  Though fighting a moving object, that has a brain and trying to free itself is quite different, there are similarities that brought me back to those days. With the rod butt in my gut, the 9’ 8 weight rod arced deep in the butt section and the 4x tippet straight as an arrow and was as tight as a banjo string. With every King I could feel the muscles in my forearm tense and after time the rest of my arm muscles did likewise. 
 Netting one of these monsters was another thing. It takes another person to net the fish you caught and even that isn’t successful all the times. I remember one big King I was struggling with swam down river. It happen to hold up near another fishermen while it tired. Seeing he had a net I asked if he would net it for me. When I got the fish towards him his first comment was “I need a bigger net.” I seen him sweep the net towards the hooked fished and asked if he “got him”. his answer was “half of him."

  At times I would hook into a “Zombie” King that wouldn’t move at all. The guys called them “Zombies” because after salmon breed they die off. Their skin starts to peel away and they start to scar and decay in a way. I’ve seen these sore patched fish and until I caught one and had a good look, and smell, of it I realized why they called them Zombies. The Zombie King Salmon didn’t run off or fight wildly as the fresher ones. They were still not that easy to bring to the net. Their weight alone made them tough to move through the water and if they decided to stay put you usually had to coax them continually to get them to the shallow waters where someone could net the darn thing. Coaxing them was like trying to get a stubborn sitting mule up by pulling the bailing twine you happen to have over his neck.

  For three days I was up at 5:00am and fished till dark hoping to tie into a big brown trout that never showed. On Sunday, the 4th day, Donny and I were back out on the river by 6:30am. We only fished till 9:45 again hoping to catch a brown trout. I hooked a couple of Kings and broke them off intentionally not wanting to waste time fighting the doggone things. We got back to close up the cottage and pack our belonings before the trip back home.

 When it came to an end and we were heading back to Erie I was still satisfied with our expedition. I had never caught a King Salmon before and found out what it was all about. I got to fish new water with a few friends and we had a good time at that. Donny is already ready to book another trip next year, a week later, in hopes of fishing over a run of big browns. Maybe I’ll join them.


a Zombie
One for the boss