Wednesday, December 16, 2015

W&M Genration II Fly Rod 7' 2 Weight Review

Generation II S-Curve Fly Rod 7’ 2 weight
By Wright & McGill

 Before I go into the story of the first time I used this rod and how I purchased it, I would like to add a few more comments.
 This is one of the most beautiful fly rods I own. From the fancy colored marble rod tube to the matching blank it will catch any fisherman’s eye. I don’t buy my fly fishing gear or flies by the looks only. They have to perform, but I have to admit the 7’ 2 weight looks tempting just to hold.
 I am a traditionalist when it comes to the grip handle and I still admire the cork grip and feel. Seeing the new aged high-density rubber in a half well wasn’t all that impressive but it holds it’s own in handling and comfort. They added a fancy window reel seat that also catches the fly guy’s eye.

  I have bought two other modern Wright & McGill fly rods in the past for my son and his wife. They are extremely happy with them. Having to get a chance to test this one out and see how it performs was a bonus. I most likely would have never bought the rod, I have plenty of light small rods, but after an outing I couldn’t pass it up.
Now for some details and the first outing.

 T-Glass and Wild Trout 

  I never felt I had a need for a 2 weight fly rod. Sometimes I think a 2 weight is just something that would be fun to use but do I really need one just to say I own one and used one? I mean, how many times will I really use it? I got a Hardy Demon 7’ 3 weight for small streams. It has a quick action I can cast with just my wrist when I don’t have room behind me. For more open small creeks I have a 7’ Diamonglass 3 weight. Its action is slow as molasses but playing a trout on glass is always fun and enjoyable. Now, if someone would give me one to sample with an option to buy at a discount price, I’d take him up on the sampling but it would have to be pretty impressive for me to buy.
 A friend just so happen to hand me a demo Wright & McGill Generation II S-Curve 7’ 2 weight. He said if I like it he would sell it to me at a discount price. I had it for a few days and read the literature that was still zip tied to the rod tube cap. In short it combines what they call T-Glass with high-density graphite as the core of the blank. It is then wrapped by carbon tape and high-density graphite to eliminate cracking and to increase breaking strength. Not getting into to it any deeper it sounds like a Glass rod with carbon and graphite combined! I wasn’t sure what the action of the rod was going to feel like, either glass or graphite. I was kind of anxious to find out though.
 My plan for the day was to hit a small mountain creek. I was planning on dry fly fishing so I wouldn’t need much gear. A pair of hip boots, a small chest pack, cigars, and the rod and reel was all I needed for a few hours.
 I didn’t have 2 weight line but I did have 444dt 3 weight line on a small graphite reel I figured would work just fine. I packed my gear in the Harley saddlebags, fired up the V-twin and I was on my way

Didn’t need much and it fit all on the Harley
  I started walking down a trail figuring I’d fish my way up creek towards my bike. A short ways down creek I met up with a fellow. He had a spinning rod in his hand and we carried on a short conversation. He had been fishing from the bridge down creek for the past hour. He said he caught quite a few stock trout and a few small wild brook trout. I asked him what he was using and he said “maggots.” After hearing that he’d been fishing along the creek I plan on fishing my excitement started to diminish some. I wasn’t going to go back to my bike and change cloth and go somewhere else. I had to face the fact that the creek had been gone over recently and the trout might not be so responsive. As I walked along the path I was just hoping there were a few wild brookies that got undisturbed and might be looking up for some food.
 I stopped at a nice looking section of water and knotted on a #16 Adam dry fly. I lit up an Ave Maria cigar to bide my time and hoped for the best.
   The sun was shining in the blue, white puffy clouded, sky. The air was cool in the shade but the sun was warm when I stepped out of the shadows. The water ran mountain stream clear, good depth and cold to touch. Deeper sections were deep enough that the bottom rocks and stones weren’t visible. Long green stemmed grass bordered the banks in open areas with occasional laurel overhanging the banks. Under the canopy of forest, trees lines the creek and there were many more hazards such as tangling branches and droopy pine boughs. It was a gorgeous summer day!

 Getting into the faster riffles I felt the small Adam wasn’t the easiest to see so I changed to a Humpy. I tried a beetle in slower waters near overhangs but for at least an hour I couldn’t get anything to rise. I figured the other fisherman must have done a good job catching and spooking the fish. I finally tied on a #14 parachute Adams and continued on.
 I had a lot of practice by now casting and controlling the T-glass. It wasn’t as slow or flexible as my Diamond glass. It did flex well near the middle of the rod but had a quick reflex on the forward cast. It was in no way as fast as the Hardy though. I have to say it had a good feel to it. I was able to sidearm my casts without much of a line drop as with a slow action rod. When I would cast straight up creek it had plenty of power though I didn’t need to make long up creek casts.

 I side armed a smooth cast up creek just behind some branches that tipped the water surface. I held the rod high and slowly took in line as the dry fly drifted towards the laurel. It passed beneath and I watched it as it passed by me on the far side. I was in the shadows only up to my ankles off the bank. The dry fly started to bounce a little in the current when a surface splash disturbed it. I quickly raised the rod and took in line. The wild trout darted playfully within the current trying to shake the hook out of its mouth. After an hour of nothingness my first trout came to hand. A beautiful wild brook trout.  

 I was hoping I would find more hungry trout but for another hour I didn’t manage to raise another trout. Even so, the scenery was great and I was enjoying myself in the peaceful wilderness.
 When I got back to my cycle I wasn’t ready to give up but I hated to think of breaking everything down and changing clothes just to drive down creek and reassemble and dress again. 
  After contemplating I broke the rod down to two sections and put it in the saddlebags. I took the small chest pack and put this in the leather tour pack. I didn’t need to drive too far to where I wanted to fish down creek so with my hip boots still on I straddled the cycle seat and fired the Harley up. Keeping my hip boots away from the mufflers I drove down creek to the big dirt/gravel parking area.

 I knew this section gets hit hard during the first couple of months of the regular trout season opener. I knew there would be a few wild trout about though and was hoping they weren’t disturbed as of yet.
 I was right; it wasn’t long before I caught a small brookie in the slower current along the far bank. 

 When I came to the falls I circled around and cast my dry Adam up into the foam. Continuing casting I got a trout to rise into vision but not to the surface. After a few more casts he gave up and disappeared into the deep darkness. I cast the Adam near the far bank but didn’t get any sign of a take. I decided to switch to a beetle pattern.
 Cast after cast towards the bubbling falls I tried to get a fish from beneath to rise. My one cast was ¾ the way across stream just shy of the foam. It drifted slowly and I saw the fish rise, look and take the beetle imitation. A quick rising sweep of the rod and it flexed downward some with the hooked fish. I watched as the trout scurried about but was no match for the T-glass and soon I had him in my palm. I was surprised by the small palomino trout.

  I fished down creek a short piece before tying on the Adam dry fly again. Letting the dry drift down creek with the riffles a trout splashed at the dry and my reflexes was quick enough to get a hold on him. I could tell he was a bit more powerful and heavier than the other trout. I kept the rod angled down as I brought him up creek towards me. It looked like this stocked trout had avoided getting itself into trouble with other fishermen and finally got fooled. The slim brown trout was fine enough to end the day with.

  I had only caught 4 trout for the few hours I spent but the time out was surely enjoyable. The 2 weight far exceeded my expectations with its performance. In other words, I was adding this to my collection.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Sun Dolphin Kayak Experienced Review

Sun Dolphin Journey Kayak 10 ss review 2
Sit-on Angler Ready

  This is a follow up to my first review as now I had the chance of fishing with it during the summer and fall. I have fished with it in a fast moving trout stream, river, bays along Lake Erie and a bass swamp in the Allegheny National Forest. With this experience I can get into a little more detail of the likes and dislikes.
 From talking to others with kayaks I have learned that the longer the Kayak the better it will track. As far as this Kayak goes it tracks fairly well in current flowing streams. As far as ponds or lakes the front moves quite a bit if you're in a hurry paddling, not so much with an easy pace.
 I used it fishing Presque Isle Bay in Lake Erie as well as a few other bays up that way. It wasn't fun trying to keep the Kayak from drifting around in the open water from the wind. This is where I found an anchor would be needed in windy conditions. When cutting across the entrance/exit of one of the Yacht clubs I had the experience of how well this sit-on kayak would handle the waves. I was a bit nervous of course but knew that the bigger waves I had to point the kayak straight into them for fear of tipping. Turning the Kayak into the wave was quick and easy and I got comfortable enough that the kayak wasn't going to tip over.
 In the swamp I fish for large mouth bass I found a claw hammer was all I needed as an anchor to grab hold of the moss on the bottom of the swamp or in the lily pads. For an anchor I used a wooden handle claw hammer that I simply dropped off the side of the kayak. Once it took hold it kept the kayak pretty steady. I had drilled a hole in the wooden handle and attached my rope to that. The claw hammer head worked great and I never had too much of a problems getting it out. I would tie it off on the seat straps for ease of lifting the hammer if I wanted to just drift a bit. The paddle cords, on each side of the kayak that holds the paddle during transport, was a good spot to hang the claw hammer out of the way when I was moving to a new location. I wouldn't recommend hanging the anchor off the side of the kayak in stream currents though. As far as reaching over a bit to net a fish wasn't a problem and I didn't have any fear of tipping.
 Before I bought this, angler ready, kayak I figured out the cost of a non-angler kayak and what it would cost to fit it with rod holders and other necessities. It was cheaper to just go with the angler ready kayak. The two extra rod holders behind the seat are easy to get to. I actually use the one to hold my net at the ready. The adjustable swivel rod holder in front I found was handy and wouldn't have placed it anywhere else. With my added Velcro strips it held my fly rod steady, secure and out of the way when paddling. The rear removable water tight compartment is handy also. I had built a kayak carrier when I need to travel with the kayak to distant locations and being that the compartment is removable, I was able to fit my kayak hauler in the back securely with the compartment removed.
 There is a bottle holder in front of the seat and holds a bottle firmly and out of the way.
Now for the dislikes.
There is a small cylinder lidded compartment that is in front of the seat as well. It is not water tight and because you will get water inside the kayak it will fill with water. I just use it as a small trash container. It holds the empty granola wrappers, cut leaders/tippets and cigar butts. Just don't forget to empty it after using it.
 I am only 5' 7". I have the foot pads extended all the way forward and for me this is the most relaxing position. I'm not sure this 10' kayak would be suitable for longer legged individuals. Before buying I would suggest sitting in one and get a feel for it.
 I learned about scupper holes which are only in the sit-on Kayaks. These scupper holes go through the hull to the water. Yes, you can put a stick through these holes from inside of the kayak right down inside the water. I suppose these holes are to drain any water should it get inside the kayak. In lakes and ponds I didn't get much water in the kayak but in current moving streams and rivers I'm sure more water will enter through these holes. They do sell scupper plugs that I plan on getting a few for when I use the kayak in mild water conditions.
 Now this brings up the next subject with water getting in the kayak. I will also combine comfort in with this. With the paddling, bringing the anchor in and out of the kayak and at times wet feet when getting into the kayak, you will get water in it. A sponge is a handy thing to take along to squeegee out the excess. As far as comfort goes forget about paying any extra $$ for what some manufacturers claim is a comfortable seat. Fishing all day in a kayak you want a comfortable seat for sure. I found a closed cell foam hot seat is as comfortable and light weight as it's going to get for me. On top of that I place the bubble plastic packing material they use in boxes for fragile merchandise when mailing. This keeps me up off the bottom of the kayak. Since water does enter the kayak, it also keeps me dry for awhile and not sitting in a puddle of water throughout the day.

As far as I'm concerned this Sundolphin 10' Journey  SS angler ready kayak has the features needed and stability to fish out of all day. For my kind of trout/small mouth fishing in large creeks, streams and rivers this sit-on kayak is perfect. It is easy to get in and out of as most of my fishing is done wading the waters anyhow.
 One more thing, with all the times I've taken this out I have yet to had to drain any water out of the enclosed hull. There are drain holes if needed but so far no water has entered. I did seal the rod holders and trash cylinder with silicone before ever taking this to the water to be extra cautious.
 I got the 10' mostly because it fits in my full size van so hauling it isn't a problem. Some kayaks don't feature side paddle holders but I would recommend them, they do come in handy. There is a weight limit so I would pay attention to the recommendations. From what I read, and I can understand, the longer the kayak the better it will track.The wider it is I would imagine the better the stability. There is a chart that will guide you as hull design for more info on speed, tracking and stability that might be worth checking out before purchasing. I don't consider myself an expert by any means and there might be ones better but for the price I paid for this and the use I've had so far I'm well pleased.

My Kayak Dolly
made out of an older golf bag cart.
Ready to bass fish


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday before Buck Season

Sunday before Buck Season

   I was asked to join a couple of friends for the opening day of buck season. Though I got a buck the last two years on the first day camping out alone I do miss the cabin camp life. I decided to give my previous hunting area a rest and join my friends for the next few days. It was going to be nice waking up in a warm cabin bunk in the morning and getting ready to hunt than waking in my cold van and getting ready in cramped cold conditions.
 I got to Keith’s camp around 2:20pm Saturday about a couple hours after Keith arrived from Pittsburgh. We enjoyed leisure conversation, beers and snacks to bide our time. For dinner Keith joined the neighbors next door while I headed to the Kelly for wings and to watch the Penguins hockey game.
 Keith’s camp is pretty much primitive in the way of no phone or TV. There is running water, that comes in from a piped spring, with an inside toilet and hot shower. A wood stove heats the inside and there is electricity. The basics as we refer to it.
 Sunday morning Steve arrived around 9:30am. After he got his gear inside him and Keith decided to go down to the quarry to shoot their rifles and pistols. I on the other hand decided to go trout fishing.
 Across the road and through a small patch of woods is a trout stream. It gets stocked early in the spring for trout season but I have caught a few hold over in the fall and winter that survived the wrath of other fishermen. There was one request before I headed out. Keith asked if I would bring a few back for a snack before dinner. He said he would roast them in foil on the charcoal grille. I couldn’t say no of course but did explain the daily limit, this time of year, was only three. I haven’t eaten trout for some time but trout on the grille seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning sounded pretty tasty.
 I decided to walk up the road and fish my way down creek. I was hoping that by the time I got to the big pool of water, in front of Keith’s camp, I would have three trout that I could throw in a cooler and continue my fishing.
 I walked down the road a piece, dropped through the forest and towards the creek. On the bank I checked out the water conditions and looked down creek at my situation. The water was in great condition and height as far as I was concerned. The water was high enough that should bring the trout out from their low water hiding places and into the middle looking for food. The water was low enough that waist waders were all I needed. The water was clear except for the deeper pockets and shady areas within the shadows of the banks. I looked down creek contemplating the best way to maneuver the waters to fish the more prominent areas where trout should be and when and where to cross. Though I was using a 7’ 6” fly rod I was using about a 9’ leader/tippet because of the clarity. The further back I was up creek the less chance the trout had to see me. This was mainly rainbow waters so I attached a Woolly Bugger and stepped off the bank.
 Slowly the cold creek water chilled my lower extremities. For some reason the air felt a little colder. The creek, from water level, took on a different prospective. What looked like shallow water, from the high bank, was obviously deeper than it looked.
  I pulled line out of the reel and gradually made a few false casts. I landed the bugger against the slow flow of water cross creek. I let it swing down creek before stripping it in. after a few casts a I felt a little more weight might keep the bugger deeper without touching bottom so I added a bit of a lead strip about a foot or so up from my offering.
 I dropped the bugger in shallow riffle near the far bank. I let some line out so the bugger would drop deeper in the deeper pool in which it flowed into. I let the bugger swing as the fly line arced with the current flow. I felt a tug in my line hand as I seen a sharp pull of the floating fly line. I quickly swept the fly rod upstream that set the hook. The fish tugged at the end of the line as the 4 weight got the trout into the net.
  I wasn’t in the water more than 5 minutes and I already had a trout in the net. I had a feeling I was going to catch a few more before Keith’s camp. I unhooked the rainbow and watched it swim out of the net.
 I took out a Churchill from my vest pocket and lit it up. The smoke lingered and than disappeared with the slight breeze. Small birds fluttered in short bursts from bank side brush to bushes. With the stronger gusts of wind I could hear the bare tree branches rattle against one another. Without the breeze it was so quiet I could hear the trickle of a nearby brook, as water dropped over rocks and stones, before entering the creek.

I caught one more trout on the bugger before I switched to a minnow imitation. With the minnow pattern I was starting to get a few more bumps more often.

 Sometimes the trout would strike like it was their first big meal of the day and not knowing when their next meal will be. Other times it was a light tap as if the trout was testing the temptation before committing to eating it.

  Downstream of a narrow section of shallow riffles I saw the water flow into a snag of half submerged branches. Before I even got to fish it I pulled one trout that was hanging around the banks of the shallows. This told me what I believed all along. If the trout were out looking for food they would be in the shallows because the creek water was up.
 From the right bank, upstream, I cast the streamer into the still air. The streamer gradually drifted with the slow current and dropped deeper as the current slowed near the tangle of branches. I brought the rod up creek a bit taking out some of the slack and let it continue to flow with the current. I saw a flash towards the middle of the creek but never felt a take. As the streamer got nearer my side of the bank, down stream, I slowly stripped it towards me. I thought I felt a subtle bump but it could have been the bottom. My next cast I let out the same length of line. The minnow imitation drifted and swung as before. When it got towards my side of the creek, in the slower moving water, I kept the rod tip up a little higher to be sure the streamer wasn’t going to hit bottom. As I stripped it in I saw a trout intensely swimming behind it. I gave the line a sharp short tug as if the minnow was going to make a quick escape. The rainbow darted towards it and took the imitation with a twisting sweep of its mouth and body. I yanked up on the rod and another trout came to the net. 

  By the time I got to the big pool in front of Keith’s camp I had already caught about a half dozen trout with 3 on my hand made stringer. There were two other fishermen, with spinning rods and bait, fishing the deep long section. I walked around the pool, on the opposite bank, and reentered the water around the bend from them. From there I walked up to the camp and dropped the three fish in the cooler.

  The guys weren’t back yet and I figured it only being around 3:00pm. I decided to fish my way down creek for more trout pleasure and headed back to the creek. I never fished down creek from here too far but I was ready to explore. Just after the long pool the water was moving a lot faster as the creek narrowed. I had caught one small trout in the riffling water before I waded around a bend and looked down creek to unfamiliar water.
 The creek had lots of bends and turns so it was hard to tell what I was getting into. I took out the last cigar from my pocket and lit the foot. Again the smoke lingered from the end of the lit stogie.

  Slowly and cautiously I fished my way down creek. I tried not to be so observant by the fish and kept my distance up stream from them. My casts were long and thought out. I caught a few trout before I came to a long slow section of water like I was fishing up creek.

 From the middle of the creek I dropped the minnow pattern near the left bank and let it drift across creek towards the far bank. The water on right side bank didn’t look too deep but there were a few rocks and boulder beneath that looked to be a good spot where trout might be holding. Just upstream, I dropped the streamer in the current and let it drift into the shadows of the far bank. I seen a flash of a trout dart out from the rocks and my line soon went taut. With a quick strip and wrist I set the hook on the hungry trout.

  In the wide slower section of water I had some more fun getting a few more trout to grab my imitation.
 Peeking over a partially submerged boulder I was able to watch a couple trout take my offering as I swam it and drifted it in the pocket of slow water behind it. The biggest trout I caught for the day gave me a good tug of war battle that I ended up succeeding in conquering.
 As the air turned colder and the sun slowly went behind the mountain of trees I decided to head back to camp and enjoy a tasty trout snack with the fellows.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Glassy Monday

A Glassy Monday

 I usually only take my fiberglass fly rod steelhead fishing in the cold winter days when the steelhead are more lethargic and not as aggressive. The reasons are that it takes longer to tire the fresh fish out with ‘glass’ and because of the crowds. The reason that glass rods take longer to tire a fish is because there isn’t the backbone in them as a graphite rod.

 Donny knocked at the side door of the van before 6:00am. I opened my eyes, in darkness, and knowing it was him opened the door. He stood there with a tall mug of hot tea and peanut butter toast. We agreed on waking at 6:00am but he woke me up early and wanted to get an early start. I think he was in his hospitality mode and knew I’d be ready in no time without complaints.

 We took his truck and he dropped me off at the side of the road so I could claim our spot before daylight. With my fishing rod in hand and led by my flashlight I followed the path to the water. I found there was already a guy in the spot shin deep in the 46 degrees water temperature. Under the flashlight glow I put together my 2 piece Wonderod, strung it up and attached a sucker spawn.
 I decided to fish fiberglass because I figured there wouldn’t be the crowds as over the weekend. It’s also much more challenging and fun than graphite and not as risky as bamboo.
 Where Donny parked, up creek, was about a fifteen minute walk. While waiting for him I stood my ground waiting for daylight. It was a bit chilly. In the darkness wet wading boots were heard sloshing through the shallow water on one side of the tunnel. A few fishermen crossed behind me heading upstream as a few more stopped and stood along the wall inside the tunnel.
 When it was light enough to see my indicator I drifted the sucker spawn. When it was light enough to see my fly line I took the indicator off. When Donny showed he said there were plenty of fishermen already along the creek. We fished for about an hour or so. There had to be fish in the deeper holes and in the tunnel but no one could get a strike. Looking up creek men were moving on so we decided to move also.

 One of my casts put my streamer against the butt of a log that lay just out from the bank, lengthwise with the water flow. The current looked as if it pushed my streamer underneath the log. It was a risky move but turned out for the best. I saw the belly of the fly line tighten. I knew there was a chance it was a snag but I pulled in line and reared back on the glass rod to set the hook. The fish stormed out from beneath the log, went three feet out from the log and flipped three feet in the air. Its silver sides shined like fresh buffed chrome. I seen it wasn’t very big but it was a fresh steelhead and was going to be frisky. It had lots of room to play and took advantage of it like a kid let loose in a playground after being cooped up all winter. I held on like trying to control a kite in a wind storm. At times it shot up out of the water like being sprung from a trampoline. I took my time and finally got it to hand. 

 Up creek further I set up upstream from Donny. The section of water was wide and I wanted to cover it pretty thoroughly. I fished the water in front of me like I was searching for trout. I was knee deep so my first cast was about midway between me and the far bank. I let the streamer drift with the current. My next cast was about 2/3rds across stream and a bit up creek. I gave a slight mend, to get the streamer to drop deeper, and followed the fly line drift with my rod tip. My next cast was a couple of yards from the far bank. The water looked a little discolored as if it was just a bit deeper. After the streamer fell across creek I gave it a good mend and let it swing. I don’t think it swung more than a couple of feet when the line pulled quickly. I reared back on the fiberglass rod. The line straightened out in front of me as the ‘glass’ bent into the middle instantly with the straining force of the hooked steelhead rushing up creek. With the force and arcing of the rod I knew this was a good fish. Line peeled off the spool and after he got so far I palmed the spool for more tension. After a few more yards he slowed enough I was able to tighten the drag for more tension. He turned, and keeping his distance, headed back down creek. He surfaced twice with wrenching head shakes before he stopped down creek for a short breather. I tightened the drag a little more as the ‘glass’ rod arced into half of the lower section. I could feel the weightiness in my wrists trying to keep the rod vertical to the water as the steelhead, with the current flow, pulled on the line. After a few wild head shakes he sprinted midstream and started more of a hand to hand combat. He tested my stamina and agility, to keep the rod bent and tensioned, with his quick darts and pausing thwarts. As he got nearer to the bank he splashed in the shallow water trying to escape but I turned him back towards me with each attempt. 

 After fishing our way up creek we came to the end of the line. (The shortest way back to the truck.) It was about 1:00 and most of the fishermen had left with only a few were about the stream. Donny was on the ledge of the RR tunnel helping an older gent out by the time I got up towards him. The sun was bright and with warmth. Just out from the shadow from the RR tunnel I saw 2 oblong shapes near the far bank. I have fished this area before and knew this was a good staging spot for the steelhead and figured there should be more. While down creek fishing I knew no one had been fishing this spot for sometime. I also figured the steelhead shouldn’t be too skittish as long as I don’t cast on top of their heads. The current was moving just slowly enough that I didn’t need to add weight to my streamer. With enough room behind me for a back cast I laid out a smooth straight line about 3 feet up from the fish. The streamer fell with little splash. I quickly glanced at the oblong shapes and they didn’t appear to spook. 
 I watched the long length of line as it slowly flowed with the current. The tip of the fly line just dipped slightly, as if a steelhead sucked it in from its stationary position. I just knew it was a take. I ripped back the rod and line and watched the water churn in an instant. The fish raced up creek, turned near the surface, and dropped beneath again. I held on while slowly backing up towards the bank as line peeled off the spool. It surfaced again, half out of the water throwing its head back and forth trying to lose the hook. I could feel the ’glass’ rod vibrate with the thwarting action of the steelhead. Water splashed about with its twisting body and, without freeing itself, dove beneath again. After that encounter I knew I had a good deep hook set. With no one around I had plenty of room to tire him out without horsing the issue.

  After the release I lit up a Connecticut Yankee Churchill letting the water settle from the commotion. I began to fish the same pattern casting out near the far bank and letting it drift. I noticed the fish I had seen earlier were gone but I had a feeling that a few might still be around.
 I made a long cast against the far wall and mended the fly line up creek. The belly of the fly line drifted downstream and I watched it intensely. Though I knew the tail out was shallower I let the streamer drift down anyhow in the shin deep water. Just before I took line in I felt a subtle bump but I figured I hit bottom but….
 My very next drift through, with the same amount of line out, I let the streamer again drift into the shin deep water. Before the streamer drifted down too far I twitched the rod tip to give the streamer more action and to make sure it wasn’t going to hit bottom. Seeing the fly line slack and then tighten instantly my instincts took over and I yanked back on the rod. The line rose from the water in a tight straight line and the head of the steelhead emerged with head tugging force. The Wonderod arced in that familiar deep bend of a heavy fish. The once calm water was now an eruption of waves spiraling out of control. He too came to hand after a good battle.

Just after that I missed one up creek on the swing. The slack in the line stopped briefly but I must have had too much line out to get a tight penetration also the grab was up stream. The next time he swiped at it I was ready for him. With a quick pull of the fly line and a full length pull of the rod I got the deep penetration I needed. This one was more active with quick sprints, thwarts and head shakes. She took a little longer to calm down and once I got her near enough I could tell why. She looked fresher with silvery sides and not much color, besides chrome!

After a slow morning I had just caught three steelhead within a half hour. Before Donny and I called it quits I had hooked up a couple more times and missed 1 in the same area. One of the ones I caught was on a nymph.

 We went back to Donny’s house and I put my gear in my van. After the good-byes there was still plenty of daylight before heading back home. I decided to fish upper Elk near the interstate.

 Driving down the road the parking area was full of vehicles but I found one spot large enough to back my van in. I took my steamers, and a few other things, out of my sling pack and put them in my coat pocket.
 Down below the bridge there was a crowd of fisher people fishing in the big deep hole. Without much current they looked more like they were carp, catfish or sucker fishing with bait than steelhead fishing. The water was much shallower up here but had a good flow and a few deep pockets in the shallows. I slowly casted out and fished the shallows and pocket water on my way down creek. I met up with two other fishermen. In conversation they said there weren’t hardly any fish down creek. I lit a cigar as I looked down creek as the fishermen walked upstream. I picked spots and casted to them getting the streamer down practically bumping the bottom.
 In a riffling narrow run I cast up creek and held the rod horizontal with the water. Letting the streamer drop deep I veered it to a dark looking ledge of slate that ran along the narrow stretch. The line stopped and I yanked upward. I wasn’t sure if it was a bottom snag or not but when it tugged back I knew it wasn’t a snag. The steelhead went rushing down creek with the current into the wider part of the creek. We fought to and fro for a time before I was able to get him in the calmer water and up on the bank.

 After that I fished down creek a piece without another take. I took my time walking up creek trying to spot steelhead. Shadows were cast upon the water by the setting sun so it was hard to spot any. Back at the bridge I fished a short bit, avoiding those that were left, before calling it quits.
 At the van I changed clothes and headed to the interstate. The Wonderod did real well on the fresh steelhead and it sure was enjoyable playing the steelhead with it!


Donny is a guide for Lake Erie  steelhead and charters for walleye and perch. You can check his sight out here.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Steelhead on Elk With Friends

Steelhead on Elk With Friends

  During the Project Healing Water Steelhead Slam, that I was a volunteer on Saturday, I hardly fished at all as I guided Veterans to fish. I did get out the last hour of daylight. A friend put me on fish and I did catch a couple before nightfall.
 Sunday was a whole ‘nother ballgame. I had all day before heading home and got to fish with a couple of friends I had never steelhead fished with before. Both of these guys have fished steelhead a lot longer than I have and know the creeks well. MJ lives in the area so tagging along with him later on in the morning was good knowledge of the area. Both used spinning/noodle rods using bait and hardware as I used my 7 weight fly rod and mostly streamers
 Jerry and I were on the creek as daylight broke. I was drifting and working a Triple Threat streamer along a narrow run while Jerry was using skein or egg patterns just down creek from me. I scored first with a nice male that tested my knots, tippet and reel drag. In the narrow channel he tugged, head shook, sprinted and played himself out trying to get free. It was like trying to control a wild dog on a short leash in a narrow hallway. It wasn’t long after I let this one go Jerry scored with a nice size male also, on an egg pattern.

 About 10:00 Jerry said he was going to head out soon. By chance MJ showed up. MJ and I had talked about steelhead fishing together for some time just never been able to meet up. Since Jerry was leaving this seemed to be a golden opportunity and I accepted his invitation to join him.
 He was wearing a backpack that looked like a hikers daypack filled with enough gear for the day. He told me he was headed down stream in hopes of finding some steelhead that weren’t being harassed by other fishermen.
 The water was clear so seeing the steelhead wasn’t going to be a problem. As we walked down stream we met up with plenty of other fishermen. I seemed around every bend there were groups of fishermen and women crowded around the bigger holes where steelhead were staging. Along the straight sections there weren’t any steelhead we could see so we continued to walk. Again bend after bend more fishermen appeared. I was beginning to think that I should had brought a day pack myself because it looked as though we were going to be pretty far down creek before we found any steelhead to fish too and it was going to be a long walk back.
 We finally got to a shallow water fall that I noticed steelhead were gathered near the far bank. MJ was trying to conjure up a steelhead in a deep pool up creek but when he looked down my way I motioned for him to come down. He had a newly built custom noodle rod he wanted to put a bend in it so he was pretty anxious to get one hooked up. He stood above the steelhead and cast down creek as I was making long casts across creek. I hooked up first with a frisky steelhead that took me for a good ride in the open water. We battled it out and it seemed I was never going to tire this guy out. Eventually I got him to the bank.

 It wasn’t long after that MJ got a hold of one and I got to watch him bring the steelhead to the bank on his custom rod.

 Here’s a few more catches that stick in my mind.
 My cast was across creek beyond the oblong figures of fish that held this side of a slate ledge. The slow current on that side of the creek was actually flowing in the opposite direction of the main body of water. Even the fish were facing downstream below a shallow ledge that ran the width of the creek to a few yards downstream near the far bank. There was no way to properly mend the length of fly line consistently for a long drag free drift with the cross currents and back flow.
 The mid section of my fly line slowly drifted downstream as my streamer moved up towards the creek ledge in a little faster current flow. Watching the fly line I seen how the line arced enough to know the steamer was now drifting down creek slowly. The line suddenly pulled towards the opposite bank and I set the hook. By the tugs, force and jarring I felt upon the rod and within my grip I knew I had a weighty steelhead on before I even seen him. Mid creek he cane up to the surface. He thrashed his head back and forth like a pit bull trying to shake the stuffing out of a toy animal. He dove beneath and took off down creek as a wake followed. We battled it out and in time I slowly began to gain more control and got him closer. He made one last attempt to escape once he felt the stony creek bottom on his belly. I let some line pull out of the tightened drag. Arcing the rod down creek he came around towards the bank shallows again. I arced the rod towards land and soon I had him where I could get a hold of him.

 There had been a guy fishing just down creek from us for some time. There was splashing occasionally from fish chasing each other I suspect so I knew he was fishing to these steelhead. I wasn’t sure how deep the water was but I didn’t think it was too deep being I was able to see waves on the surface now and than for no other apparent reason. The fellow fishing that area went to the bank and eventually went back into the wooded area, behind him, to do some business. I turned and faced down creek and started to make very long casts towards the active fish locations.
 I shot the double taper line down and somewhat outward towards mid stream. The current was slow so I didn’t let the streamer swing too much without stripping it in enough to keep it from hitting the bottom. Once the streamer got about the end of the swing I slowly started to drift it back towards me with slow strips. The current was so slow that in between my strips the length of line, between me and the streamer, would droop before my next strip towards me. I was watching for my streamer as two steelhead casually swam up creek within my vision. I noticed one with his mouth open and something white was very evident in the side of its mouth. I quickly stripped in as much line as I could with one long stretching pull with my left hand and brought the rod up with force with my right. I seen the head of the steelhead jerk upward and felt the hook setting resistance. “Fish On!”
 I laughed as I tried to explain to MJ how I hooked this steelhead. He gave me a good fighting battle before I was able to get him to the bank. The opposite side of his jaw, from where I hooked him, appeared damaged by maybe a lure. It didn’t look as though he was able to close his mouth. Either way he must have been hungry because he took my offering while swimming up creek.

  I was bringing my line in for a roll cast when I saw a steelhead following my streamer as it came towards me. I was near the bank on a slab of slate rock with plenty of water in front of me before the slab suddenly dropped off into deeper water. I was surprised by the chase and was already in the motion of roll casting the streamer. I quickly dropped the rod horizontal and pulled the streamer over the shallower water above the slate like a fleeing minnow. The steelhead got to the edge of the slate rock and stopped. It turned up creek and held still as if waiting for the next minnow to come near. He was a bit up creek from me a little over a 9’ rod length away. I tried to be inconspicuous as I took line in till only a foot or so of the fly line exited the tip top. I looped the streamer out and as soon as it started to sink the steelhead swam and tried to suck it in but missed and the streamer grazed the side of its gill. I kept moving the streamer in the water extending my arm to keep it in the deeper section beyond the ledge. The steelhead grabbed it twice before I was able to heave back and get the hook to find his jaw. Again I laughed out loud and told MJ how I achieved in getting this steelhead to bite. This steelhead wasn’t too anxious to come in. I had to keep an eye on his location, as I got him nearer, so my leader wouldn’t scrape against the slate ledge. I did get to bring this one in safely. 

  MJ had caught a couple more before he said he had to leave. This left me alone. The guy down creek was still fishing. I moved into MJ’s spot for a bit and fished for about another hour before heading back up creek.
 As I fished my way up creek the sun threw shadows down across the creek from the trees and hillside. There were very few other fishermen about by this time. I fished areas I remembered people were fishing as we walked down creek earlier. Though I couldn’t see the steelhead I knew they were in the pools and spent a little extra time there. Most of the pools the fish were still skittish but I did manage a few on my way back to the van.

 I got to my van about 4:30. I was hungry and pretty well tuckered out. I took my time changing clothes and putting my rod and gear away. I took a long swig of a bottle of water and put it up front. In the drivers seat I ate the last remains from a blueberry muffin I had for breakfast and swallowed the last sip that was left in my coffee mug. I slid a bag of peanuts next to the captain’s chair and backed up in the parking area. I shifted into drive and pulled out onto the roadway eating peanuts and drinking water.
 Somewhere along I79 I rinsed my mouth out and took out a Brick House Churchill. I wet the outer tobacco savoring the fresh outer leaf. I nipped off a small portion of the cap and made sure I would have a good draw before lighting it up.
 Bob Seger sung ‘Turn the Page’ as I headed on down the highway towards home. As the ash grew longer the evening grew darker. It was a rewarding weekend!