Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2 1/2 Days of Christmas

2 ½ Days of Christmas

  I was left to fend for myself again this year for Christmas so why not go fishing?

Christmas Day 12/25/14
 When I arrived at Elk Creek Christmas morning, around 8:30am, I found that the water was muddy. There were two other vehicles in the small parking area so I figured I wasn’t going to be the only one crazy enough to give it a try. I mean I drove almost two hours to get here so I had nothing else planned. The temperature was in the mid 30’s so I dressed extra warm.
 Down at the creek the water was running on the high side but good flow and maybe a few inches of visibility from the surface. I waded my way down creek where I caught steelhead before. I knew that during the cold winter months the fish are usually lethargic and don’t move to go after food. You practically have to put your offering right in front of their noses. If I can find where a pod might be holding I might just get something in front of their mouths to maybe hook into at least one.
 They say that during muddy conditions a dark fly is a better choice. I’m not all that completely convinced of this but I started with a bead head peach sucker spawn with chartreuse sparkle spawn as a dropper. By 9:30am I hadn’t had a hit yet but I had a La Perla Morado between my teeth while fighting off the stiff gusts of wind and below 40 degree weather. I was on a treasure hunt and just hadn’t found any treasure yet. I was changing my bottom fly often and covered the area pretty well. I just knew they were there but couldn’t get a bite.

 My one cast put the indicator and sucker spawn in the slower current between two rolling waves of faster current. I held the rod high and this kept the indicator not moving so fast keeping my offerings down and slowly drifting beneath. The indicator finally dropped below and I lifted the rod higher, with authority, for a hook set. I knew I had something fishy right off as I felt the line tighten and slowly pull away. Once in the stronger current the fish headed down creek and the struggle with the treasure was on.
 He put up a good battle and I succeeded in getting a good size brown trout to the bank.

 This put a smile on my face and gave me a little more confidence. I hooked up three more times by 1:00 only getting 1 small brown trout to hand. The water was cleaning up some but still was quite dirty. I decided to drive up creek in hopes of clearer water.

 I parked along the roadway without another vehicle in sight. Here too I had caught a few steelhead earlier in the season. I got my gear on again and headed to the creek. The water was a bit clearer and I was sure the steelhead had a better chance of seeing my fly in this section. Down creek I hooked into two fish briefly but the hook set wasn’t enough to keep the fish on for very long. I lit up a cigar and waded the shallow water down creek further.

 I spotted a few steelhead out from a down tree along the bank in about two feet of water. I tempted the fish and finally got a good hook set with a sucker spawn. The fish put up a battle, thrashing around, trying to get to the down tree. With 6x tippet I was able to keep him away from the tree and forced him midstream. I backed up towards shore and got him coming towards me. The nice size steelhead put another smile on my face as I watched him swim out of sight.

 I fished till it got dark without another bite. At the van I changed clothes and it was nice to get some warmth in my body from the heated van.
 I headed to my friends house in Lake City where he offered me some leftover Christmas dinner. He decided to join me for Fridays outing.
 Donny is a charter captain as well as a stream guide on the tributaries. He knows where the steelhead hold up in dirty water so I was glad he decided to come along. 

Friday 12/26/14
 Waking me up, in my van, before it was even light wasn’t what I expected though. He said he figured the creeks would get crowded with other fishermen but I wasn’t all the sure about it. I was a little slow getting my gear on before we headed out. He parked his vehicle up creek and, in my vehicle, drove down creek some to a spot where we’d start. To my surprise he was right. There were already quite a few people already along the creek. We fished the bottom section, without any strikes, before starting our way wading and fishing up creek.
 It was a cold brisk fishing experience where occasionally we’d hook up with a steelhead now and then. We also came across many more fishermen in likely spots Donny said fish usually hold up. When we got to his truck we only had caught a couple of steelhead each. The sun was out by then, which warmed things up a bit, but the wind kept up keeping a cold brisk wind which kept bare skin still quite cold.

We headed up creek a short piece, from where he parked his truck, upstream from the bridge.
 The water rippled with waves along the shallower wide section that emptied into a deeper pool. There was a ledge that dropped deep, on the far side a good piece away from the far bank. It was hard to see the ledge but we both had fished this section before so we kind of knew about where the ledge was in the tinted water. Donny crossed down creek and worked the ledge from the far bank as I stayed on the near side and worked the riffling water that flowed into the deeper pool.
 With sucker spawn and articulated nymphs we worked the water and finally came up with some good hook sets and added a few more fish to our numbers. We were both surprised that the steelhead we caught were all fresh fish and not the drop backs that have been in there for a month or so.

 Donny said the day before Christmas there was a warm spell and the fishing was great. He figured the warm spell might have gotten the fish that have been in the water for months to drop back to the lake. I didn’t doubt him a bit.
 We not only caught a few small frisky fresh Jacks but also caught some good size steelhead that battled like an early fall/winter run. They didn’t breakwater above the surface but many took line spinning off the reel with good runs.

 After a bit we took off to find another section to fish. Everywhere Donny took us there were plenty of vehicles and it wasn’t worth trying to fish the crowds. He drove us back to my van and said he had enough. There was still plenty of daylight left and I told him I was going to head back up to where we did well above the bridge. I also told him I’d stop back at his place if I decided not to head to my daughters house.

 I parked in the parking lot, where we had parked his truck earlier. There were still quite a few vehicles in the lot but I noticed no one was fishing the section above the bridge. I quickly got my gear together and headed up creek.
 The water was clearing and I was able to see the ledge on the far side. I lit up an Alec Bradley Tempus and the cigar was a pleasant medium body smoke. Kind of surprised me how smooth it was but then again it wasn’t a cheap cigar.
  I was fishing alone covering the area, from the rippling water to a distance down creek into the deeper water. It was like someone turned the fish light on and the steelhead were more responsive.

 My tandem sucker spawn fell up creek, into the rippling water, where I mended upstream to make sure of a good drift. The flies and indicator entered the mouth of the deep pool, near the ledge, and the indicator stopped briefly and the moment it dipped I yanked for a hook set. Sure enough the line tightened instantly and I held on for a wild ride. The steelhead shook the line beneath and headed downstream along the ledge tugging and pulling. Line shot out from the spinning reel spool as I put the butt section of the rod in my gut for leverage. He turned down creek and battled beneath keeping his distance from me. When he started to swim up creek I reeled in line onto the large arbor and was careful backing up towards the bank. He did a couple of spinning maneuvers in the deeper section, just down from the rippling current, before taking off again down creek. I kept pressure on him and soon he was tired enough whereas I got him to come nearer to me. The steelhead had some nice light color to her telling me this fish wasn’t an old moldy.

 After my third catch all of a sudden I noticed two other fishermen were fishing down creek from me but leaving me plenty of distance to keep working the area. Some of the bites were so subtle that it was hard to tell if I had a bite being the indicator was constantly bobbing on the wavy current. I constantly had to keep my eye on the indicator and didn’t pay much attention to the fellows down from me so I didn’t know if they were catching anything or not.
 At times I seen a fish roll beneath, when I yanked, failing to get a good hook set. Other times I’d get a good hook set that developed into some good fish verses fisherman battles.

 I caught a few small Jacks in between the nicer bigger fish.
 A fisherman walked towards me and stood between me and the other two fishermen. He was crowding me a bit but I wasn’t changing my drifts. He was evidently experienced enough to follow my lead and not get in my way so I wasn’t displeasured.
 I switched my dropper often and often enough I’d hook into another fish. It was like different fish wanted something different on the menu and I had the right offering at times
 I cast up creek into the riffling water and guided the drift along the rippling current with the rod held out and high not wanting to catch bottom in the shallower water. The indicator flushed down creek and sunk before it got to the deeper pool. I yanked upward and felt a sweeping pull that took the line cross creek. I saw the disturbance in the shallower water as it turned down creek with motoring force. I had a lot of loose line between my line hand and spool, expecting that the free drift would take me down into the deep but this fish fooled me taking my offering in the shallow section. I kept tension on the line as he circled just down from the shallow water in the deep. There was still line between my line hand and spool so I didn’t dare leave go and try to reel in line to let him fight the reel drag yet. He took off towards the ledge and I let tension line slip through my cold fingers. He headed down creek and finally the line tightened to the reel. With the drag now in the battle with the fish I was beginning to think I had the upper hand. From down creek he headed right towards me. I reeled in line as fast as I could looking behind me occasionally as I backed up not wanting to trip over the exposed boulders around me. The line went limp and drooped down in front of me. I was sure I lost the fish so I started to reel in. The guy beside me was watching me battle with the steelhead also and I’m sure he also thought I lost the connection. When I got line into the reel the line tightened with tension and I realized the steelhead was still on just beyond my feet. He took off again like a bullet back into the riffling water heading downstream towards the ledge. I held the rod high and let him take line. In the deeper section again I put some more pressure on him and was more careful backing towards the bank. He fought the whole way to my feet.

It was getting dark as I was trying for one more hook up. The other fellows had left the creek as I fished alone again. I didn’t hook up again before it got too dark that I had a hard time seeing my indicator in the shadows from the cliff and trees above the far bank. I headed out and headed for Donny’s house.

Saturday 12/27/14
 The next morning I was only going to fish till 10:00am. I had a family get together at my mom’s house to celebrate her birthday and exchange gifts. Donny decided to fish with me instead of going hunting.

 I had brought along my Wonderod fiberglass rod and decided to fish it for the few hours I had in the morning. I attached the Allen large arbor to the rear locking seat and strung up the line through the small rod eyes. It was just breaking daylight when we got to the creek and there were already two guys in the water waiting for enough light to fish. We waded across creek and headed upstream where Donny thought we would get into some more fish. The water had cleared up nicely but it was still too dark in the deep water I was fishing to see any fish. I positioned myself in the shallows, out from the bank, and started tying on my offerings. I heard a splash in the tunnel and knew Donny had a fish on. I worked the pool of deep water in front of me hoping for a hook up also.
 Got one I called out as I lifted the hook set with a good yank upward. I caught the steelhead right where the current entered the tunnel. He put on a good fight circling and trying to shake the hook as Donny came out of the tunnel to see me bring it in.

 We both continued to fish the deep section flowing in towards the tunnel. The fish didn’t want to cooperate and we went fishless for some time. We switched offerings often but weren’t getting any better results.

 I cast upstream into the wavy water that flowed above the slate bottom. From there the slate ledge drops off into the deeper pool before quickly flowing along the wall and into the tunnel. I must have some how got the right mend or drift. I watched as the indicator flowed just beyond the ledge when it dropped below the surface quickly. I, just as quickly, yanked the rod back to my right. The line tightened and the fish tugged and then struggled down creek deeper as it went. The fiberglass rod flexed deeply as if I had on a whale. Line slipped out of the reel as the rod flexed and bounced with every tug and head-shake the fish jolted with. He took to the opening of the tunnel and kept deep trying to force the initiative. I tightened the reel drag some and then gripped the cork grip with both hands. I held the rod securely letting the fish fight the pressure of the flexible rod without fear he was going to break the 6lb tippet. After exerting a lot of energy he came subsurface near the tunnel entrance and Donny said it was a brown trout. I wasn’t too sure because I couldn’t see any darkness of its sides that older browns get. Donny was closer to it so I didn’t question him. The trout dove deep and swam up creek in the deeper pool along the wall. I kept the rod back and soon the force and current pressure was too fierce for him to fight against. He circled around towards me and with tail slashing reluctantly came towards me. Sure enough I caught a nice size brown.

   After that we shown them a bunch of patterns but the fish didn’t want to cooperate and we didn‘t catch another. I did keep my promise and we left the stream at 10:00am and headed back to Donny’s.

 After a hot shower I headed to my mom’s house for the Christmas get together. With a RP Vintage 2003 Cameroon in my mouth I took Rte 18 south relaxing in the captains chair thinking about the past few days. Not a stellar performance but fishing with a good friend I haven’t seen for awhile always makes the time spent a little more special! I did make one stop on the way at Conneaut Cellars for a couple bottles of wine.

Merry Christmas and all have a Happy New Year!


1 comment:

  1. Those are some pretty incredible fish sir, well done.