Monday, October 13, 2014

Elk Creek Weekend

Elk Creek Weekend
10/11/2014 10/12/2014
It doesn’t get much better!
 There is nothing that comes close to early steelhead fishing. The fresh, wild, exuberant steelhead that makes the run into a trout size creek each year is one heck of an experience to be hold. Just to see them staging in semi-deep holes, along shallow ledges or in a tumbling riffle gets me excited. To hook into one is an experience you don’t often find in a fresh water creek.
  The speed of a fresh steelhead that will rip line off the spool in a matter of seconds and possibly into your backing! The quickness of them in changing direction and the force is incomparable to any freshwater stream fish. The sight of a steelhead exploding out of the water within feet of where you stand, watching it display beauty and acrobatics is worth the sight if for only once in a life time. Its chrome sides glistening from the sun flashes before your eyes before its body slams back upon the surface. You better hold on because there isn’t much of a pause before it quickly dashes away constantly trying to throw the hook. Can you keep up with an onward charging steel right at you? Your hand winding the large arbor reel trying to keep tension on the line as you keep the rod up and flexed with the other tightly gripping the cork handle.
  You find you’re never sure when you got him tired out. As you get him closing in he turns abruptly for another try at escaping. You keep the drag too tight and he’s sure to break you off, too loose and he’ll take all the line you give him.
  Some come for the excitement just for the experience. Some for the meat in the form of smoked steelhead. Some come just to relax and hope for just one fight with a fresh steelhead.
You don’t necessarily need a hunk of sticky skein or live bait in the form of egg sacks. Sometimes just a single egg. Fly fishermen will use the same patterns they use for everyday trout fishing in the form of Woolly Bugger or streamers.
One on a Woolly Bugger
One on a streamer
Even a small sucker spawn will get a take and a wild ride to go with it.
One on a hand tied sucker spawn
 If you get the chance to hook into a buck hold on tight, he’ll bully his way, any which way to get loose. And if you get him to shore you can admire his colors and hooked jaw.

 The down fall is the crowds. You have to be patient and sometimes wait your turn to get into the right spot for that perfect drift. There are long pauses where you think it’s never going to happen. Sometimes it never does but when you get that hook up you know you’re in for some extended fun.
What more can I say? You won’t catch them sitting at home!

 The line stops and you yank a hook set. You feel the line tighten and before you know it all hell breaks loose. Your forearms tighten and you try to keep your wrist locked on the rod that is flexed towards the steelhead. The force and speed is too much and the rod starts to lower towards the fleeing fish as line peels off the spinning reel. The least amount of line in the water the better to keep undue pressure off the tapered leader and tippet from the escaping steelhead. The seconds tick by and you wonder how long it is going to take to get him close enough to land. It is as if the steelhead has no limit to its energy. Once landed you’re relieved. You accomplished the feat and you can now admire your catch.

There truthfully is nothing like it in my opinion. A 7 weight fly rod. 4x or 5x tippet. A few boxes of hand tied streamers and sucker spawn, and a very good drag system on a well made reel! Oh, and a few great cigars for me!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October Steelhead 2014

October Chrome
…By the time we got to the creek the fishermen, fisherwomen and children were lined up like dominoes along the banks. Its early season and the steelhead are just starting to make their way into the creeks from the mouth of Lake Erie. The abundance of these steelhead are still down low not that far up from the mouth. It brings crowds galore for those that can’t wait to hook up into steel.The deeper holes are encircled with fishermen within elbow length trying to hook into a steelhead by outmaneuvering one another. There are rods and reels of all kinds. I see, thick in diameter, short surf rods, undersized trout rods as well as spinning reels that are from lightweight to ocean ready. Aside from that the crowds are a little tamer than usual.

As we walked up creek, on the near side, a couple of fishermen decide to leave their spot and move up stream further. Deetz and I take their spots, along the narrow run, with enough space between us that we didn’t have to rub shoulders. Deetz started drifting an egg sack under an indicator with his noodle rod. Though I didn’t have much room I tried drifting a streamer in the small section allotted to me with my 9‘ fly rod. I came to a conclusion that I wasn’t going to get a good drift so I decided to knot on a sucker spawn. I noticed the guy right up stream was fishing with orange skein. Knowing well that skein will come apart in chunks I decided to fish with an orange sucker spawn being I was below him. I took out of my fly box an orange bead-head sucker spawn and knotted it to the 6lb tippet. I knew this bead-head would drop deeper faster being that there wasn’t much room for a better presentation.

  My roll casts were directed at the sharp ledge that ran along the run across creek. The water was dark there and it wasn’t clear enough to see any fish but I had my suspicions. There wasn’t anyone at the time standing above fishing close to the ledge so I had it pretty much to myself.
The sucker spawn dropped up creek a bit from where I stood and I snapped a small mend upstream to make sure my sucker spawn would drift down ahead of my tippet. In time the line arced as if something stopped the sucker spawn from drifting so I gave a good upward yank and the fight was on. The water boiled from beneath as my first hooked steelhead of the season was giving me the old headshakes trying to get loose. I held the cork grip tight as I felt the weight of the steelhead throbbing the end of the rod. He took line up creek for a short distance, stopped for some headshaking near the surface and than shot down creek.
“Coming down” I blurted to alert those with lines still in the water. He stopped momentarily and struggled below with the hook. If there wasn’t as many people lining my side of the bank I would have slowly followed him down a bit trying to keep sideward pressure. When there is such a crowed I’d rather take my chances on a wild one and try to horse him towards me. As he pulled and tugged harder I kept my stance as the rod flexed further and further. I had him coming to my side of the bank, still a ways down creek, when my tippet broke and the line went limp. I wasn’t too discouraged, we had a good struggling battle, and I was going to release him anyway.
  It wasn’t long before Deetz decided to head upstream some. I was pretty sure there was still a couple of more steelhead along the deep ledge and decided to stick around.
  My second hook up was an accidental snag. I didn’t let him get too far before I yanked upward with force once I determined it was a bad hookup. Once the egg pattern came flashing by, it came to rest safely. By now people were starting to take notice and soon a few more fisher people started to close in nearer to where I was casting. I continued on as before fishing the deep ledge.

The next grab was similar to the first. I gave a yank and felt another heavy load on the end of my line.
“Fish on!” I gave a yelp.
  The steelhead came to the surface nose first shaking and stirring the water like an inboard motor taking off with a skier in tow. Water sprayed as he arced downward to continue his rant. I kept a tight line, and grip, hoping he wouldn’t take off downstream as far as the other. We battled tooth and nail within 15 yards of each other before he decided to forcibly swim down creek. I didn’t have much choice but to give him line. I could feel the tightness in my forearms as I struggled to keep the rod upward as he spun line from the tensioned spool. He stopped his escape in an instant, rose to the surface again with wild tantrums that shook the rod all the way down to my grip. We were putting on a good show but it was time to start taking more control. I seen a huge net behind one of the observers and asked if he wanted to net the fish for me. He grabbed the net and started to walk along the bank as I backed up and forced the steelhead towards us. It didn’t take too much time that I got him close enough and the young man scooped him up.

 The steelhead was a solid catch and had to be at least 26” long or better. I asked the net minder if he wanted the steelhead. He was grateful for that and roped the fish after I got the hook out of its jaw.
 By the time I got back to my original spot a couple of older gents had already taken claim, across creek, high sticking their fly rods fishing the same ledge. Within minutes a younger man stood up creek and floated a pencil bobber into my drift time and again. I spent another 10 minutes trying to avoid being snagged by the casting idiots and then decided to move on up creek. I crossed to the far bank, and continued on.

There was a faster rippling run that looked to have good potential. I was able to see a couple of tails beneath the rippling water and with no one fishing this section I took a stand. The nearest person was up creek a short piece but was concentrating in a deep flowing pool before the choppy water. I tried drifting the sucker spawn through the run but it was quite fast with lots of bedrock. The bottom was easy enough to see to mid stream but beyond that is where the water was a bit deeper with rougher current. It was time for streamer fishing.
  I tried a couple colors of my DT Triple Threats that didn’t produce a strike. I decided to go with one of my Goldfish color Threats and add a bit of weight on my tippet to get it down deeper.
  After a few casts I started to see fish move around. One such steelhead was staging a little further than rods length down creek. I flipped the streamer outward and controlled the drift to within a foot or so in front of the fish. There I twitched the rod tip a couple of times and then let it ‘swim’ in the current. The steelhead couldn’t take the temptation any longer and swam up and mouthed it. That’s all it took.
  With a hearty yank, the hook set and, the fish was on the run with my line following. He didn’t go far before he surfaced and head shook. He continued upstream as other fishermen pulled in their lines. I took a few steps along the bank and put a little more backbone into the rod. The steelhead turned and swam down creek a bit and settled on the opposite side of the creek with jarring tugs. It wasn’t long the hook unhinged and the steelhead was set free.

  I spent at least another hour or so drifting and swimming the streamer in the choppy flow. At times I was able to see some fish moving up creek. I ended up fair hooking 4 steelhead and foul hooked one that darted down creek with unnatural speed. When I followed it down is when I discovered the foul hook and jerked the fly rod upward and the hook came loose saving my streamer.

I had just lit up a mild stogie when Deetz returned and we continued to fish the section. While my head was turned talking to him I felt a nudge in my line fingers. Instinct took over and my right hand yanked the rod upstream while my left hand held line tight until I felt the set. I turned my head down creek and seen the boil in the water and said aloud “FISH ON!” Deetz was surprised that while we were talking and my head turned I caught the steelhead without looking in its direction. I told him I fish streamers so much that it’s instinct.
  The steelhead felt like it was tugging backwards with the current a second or two before it rose up and body slammed the surface a few times trying to spit the hook. I felt the vibration all the way down the 7 weight rod shaft as it flexed erratically with each forceful whipping pull. This one wasn’t as big as some of the others but she had lots of spunk and I could tell by the color it was a fresh fish right from the lake. Its back was gunmetal gray and its body was pure chrome that glistened from the sunlight. I struggled with her trying to keep her under my control but she didn‘t want to give in just yet.
 I had her just about straight across from me with the rod bowed and her struggling facing into the current. The reel drag was set perfect for if she tried to run again and if not it was holding tight as I had two hands on the rod waiting for her next move. She began to come closer, turned down creek but didn’t get too far before she turned my direction again. It wasn’t long after that we were posing for a picture, her chrome sides shimmering like Harley chrome in a custom motorcycle show!!

 After a bit we decided to walk up creek. Fishermen still lined the creek like dominoes where fish were holding. We fished the still water without success and continued on to the straight and narrow channel that flowed down into the big hole. Deetz found a gap between a few anglers and had enough room to drift his egg sack under his float as I watched. It wasn’t long before he had one on and I watched the fun.

 After that Deetz took off as we walked down towards the road. I continued to fish my way back down creek. I happen to see a few steelhead lying almost motionless beneath the rippling current where no one was bothering them.

  I looped a roll cast out and across and watched the fly line as the streamer swung beneath. I caught movement towards where my streamer should be and felt the swiping grab. Another steelhead battled with me, splashing, tugging, headshaking, peeling line off the spool but I wasn’t letting the steelhead get the upper hand. He had a lot of room to try his best to get away but I played him out until he gave up and my last steelhead came to hand.

I noticed more fishermen moving in to try their luck. It was about 5pm by now and I had my fun for the day. I waded out and walked down creek toward the mouth hoping to see some steelhead in areas that there weren’t any fishermen but couldn’t get an eyeball on any. I decided to call it quits and made my way to the van.

  My adventure for early Steelhead was a complete success as far as I was concerned!!