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


  1. Congrats on the win...That sounds like a heck of a good time!! I've fished a couple on-fly contests here around home and they're always a hoot.

    1. thanks! It is nerve racking for 6 hours but it is a real challenge as i'm sure you know.