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.


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