Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Out of Place

Out of Place

 The only person with a fly rod I felt out of place. It was like bringing the lever action Winchester 30-30 to a long range shooting contest. I was lined up with a bunch of bait fishermen. I wasn’t hard to spot; I was the only one with a faded black cowboy hat at the tossle and ball cap convention. 

 It’s early steelhead fishing and without much rain the steelhead aren’t very far up the creeks. This means the fishermen are near the mouth or not too far up creek to where the majority of steelhead are concentrated. This creates crowds and lines of fishermen along the creek banks. I was one of those on Tuesday the 20th.

 I got to the creek early enough to get a spot between the few anglers along the bank. We were lined up but space between us that if one fell sideways it wouldn’t knock the next one over. In the tunnel it was a different story. They were crammed in there like a box of graham crackers.
 Come daylight it wasn’t very long before the yelps of happy fishermen and splashing steelhead was the morning norm. The bait fishermen were having a field day. They were catching fish to the left of me and to the right. Often I heard the muffled sound of a splashing steelhead coming out of the tunnel. I watched skein and egg sacs being reloaded on hooks. Every once in a while I saw someone picking single eggs out of a plastic medicine bottle container. I heard southern drawls as a group of guys from West Virginia were ribbing each other while catching fish. I learned a few fishermen were from Kentucky and even a guy from the Philadelphia area who is a Philly fan and proud of it. What was nice is they all knew what they were doing. There wasn’t anyone like I’ve seen at the wall at Walnut whereas the spinning reel is on top of the rod seat with left hander’s reeling the open face reel clockwise and right hander’s counterclockwise. They weren’t using baseball size or wooden bobbers. These guys were pretty good and considerate of each other also.
 There I was the only fly guy in the bunch flinging a fly line. To them I probably resembled some gray bearded old cowboy with a long buggy whip. I looked down stream and it also was lined with fishermen so I decided to just stay put and wait it out.
 I was tying on every combination and color streamer trying to muster a strike. As long as the others were using scented bait I felt I really didn’t have a chance on these fresh steelhead. As the morning wore on there were these unethical thoughts that ran through my brain. Since a fly fisherman can’t imitate smell on his ties these unethical thoughts kept suggesting to ask a single egg user if I can dip my sucker spawn in their container. I lit up a good cigar instead and those evil thoughts vanished.
 I watched time and again as steelhead were caught than strung on rope along the bank secured to heavy rocks. The guys and gals in the tunnel had their own hitching post. They carried fresh caught steelhead out of the tunnel and roped them on long ropes tied to a heavy tree branch on the bank. Once these master bait fishermen roped their limit of three steelhead they sat back and coaxed their pardoners on. This gave me more room to move around.
 After a long time I found a few steelhead whom were tired of the smell of fish eggs and wanted a real fish diet. I even found room to park myself on the ledge outside the tunnel for some time.
 I laid the Triple Threat streamer nicely against the blocks across creek. It drifted slowly with the current just out from the wall. The take was subtle. When I seen the floating fly line drop slightly I yanked back on the rod. There was a quick scuffle where the water surface began to churn when the line tightened. The steelhead circled down creek as the other fishermen brought in their lines. The steelhead didn’t force itself down creek too far and didn’t head into the tunnel. He had the upper hand for sometime as I held onto the grip tightly and waited for him to tire. It got to be a standoff bout for a time being in the imaginary box in front of me. I eventually got him to the bank and than released him.

 I got up on the tunnel ledge after a few guys left. My cast was down and across creek. The take was sharp as if the fish was making sure no other fish was going to grab the last minnow in the sea of fish eggs. It took off with a jar and I was able to feel its weighty mass as I tried to hold the rod upright. It continued to tug and jar the line as it darted up and down the waterway. In the tunnel it surfaced with head thrashes splashing water in all directions. Once I got the steelhead out of the tunnel I consciously stepped off the ledge into the water out from the stony bank. From there, while still fighting the husky steelhead, I carefully stepped over the roped steelhead lying around my feet. I backed up as I was getting the steelhead nearer to the bank. The rod arced under its weight as I circled around and landed it on the bank. It wasn’t till about a quarter to 10 that I caught my first steelhead but it was a big one. Its chrome sides shined like new silver spurs.

 I landed another smaller steelhead a little later on. When it got to the point the crowd thinned out and not too many fish were being caught I decided it was time for me to go elsewhere. I looked down stream and the line of fishermen had thinned out so I hooked the streamer in the rod hook and headed down yonder.

 There were a few guys fishing deeper runs along the bank. There were also few guys fishing a deeper hole about mid creek. One had just hooked up while the others watched from the stony bank. I took it as they were together and fishing there for some time. They at least had fly rods so I felt a little more accepted with this bunch. The guy who caught the fish followed the catch through the shallower water and they both headed down creek. I asked one of the on lookers if it was ok if I fished the area and they didn’t seem to mind. When the guy who caught the fish returned they all went down creek and I had the big pool to myself. I was able to see dark outlines of the steelhead in a few areas inside the pool and every once in a while I would see one swimming about. I checked over the situation and lit another cigar.
 I came to the conclusion, after showing them many streamers and buggers, that they weren’t interested. I started to show them many colors of sucker spawn and different nymphs and still no takes. I felt like an old time traveling salesman trying to get someone to buy one of my wares. I came to another conclusion those band of fly guys worked those steelhead over real good and they were afraid to bite on anything. I was at a disadvantage again like being at a hoedown without aftershave on and offering artificial flowers to the ladies. I couldn’t convince any to dance. 

 There was a guy with a fly rod up creek fishing a faster run along the bank. He caught three or four steelhead in the fast water. Before he got there I watched one other fly guy fish the same run for about a half hour or so and only caught one that appeared to be foul hooked. I wondered what this guy was using but kept to myself and didn’t ask. I felt I could figure it out for myself. After he left the area and fished down below me I casually waded up creek to the faster run. I was able to see fish moving to and fro in the oncoming current. There appeared to be quite a few and that was only the ones I was able to make out. I heavily weighted a streamer and swam it in front of them but they didn’t want anything to do with it. I finally got to the side and started drifting sucker spawn. I knew using an indicator would move the sucker spawn through the run too fast so I tried without one. Even mending the line upstream as it hit the water didn’t appear to be too impressive. Remembering some tactics, which a friend of mine used in Alaska, I decided to try it out. I knotted on, what I call, a Golden Nugget sucker spawn to the end of my 6lb tippet. Above that a ways I twisted on a lead strip with a small split shot to make sure the unweighted sucker spawn didn’t rise up too far in the current.
 I cast the sucker spawn in the soft spot right behind an exposed boulder breaking the fast current of water. As the sucker spawn tumbled in the current I continued to mend line up creek with the rod high trying to keep the weight from dragging on the bottom to long and possibly getting hung up. I thought I noticed the line not traveling out of the tumbling water as it should have and lifted the rod upward with hook setting force. I felt the rod arc and line tighten and than all hell broke loose. The steelhead tugged like a heavy weight at the sound of a gun that marked the start of a tug of war against an opponent. Than it took off like a wild mustang with a force of a steam engine down stream. All I could do is hold on as the large arbor reel spun and line shot off the spool. I gripped the cork handle tightly with my forearms locked trying to keep the rod shaft up as the tip bowed down creek. The steelhead had lots of room to roam around and took full advantage of the wide section of stream. As I fought the steelhead I slowly backed up towards the bank behind me which was about 40 feet away. After a hesitant stop and go headshake it turned and shot up creek. I reeled in line onto the large arbor while the rod flexed wildly with my winding and the steelhead fighting while swimming. Once it got into the swifter current again it jolted the line in quick intervals before turning right at me from the force of the rod tension. I had it coming towards me reluctantly. When it got to the shallow water and seen me it turned away with force. I couldn’t hold back any longer and palmed the spool as water flung off the wet fly line as the spool spun.
 This is when I start thinking about whether my knots were going to hold up or if the hook is going to let loose. Occasionally I’d glance behind me to make sure I wasn’t going to trip over any big rocks about. I kept the pressure on and never tried to hurry the big fellow in. He began to fight in quick tugs and pulls than fast runs so I was able to get him to cooperate more easily. I got him into the shallows where I was able to grab a hold of him and get him to the bank.

 Taking a break from the strenuous battle I took out my last cigar and lit it up. I relaxed and looked around as I puffed on the stogie. 

  The sun was out and the air was warm. There were very few people up by the tunnel and down creek I only seen one other fisherman. I checked the sucker spawn to make sure the hook wasn’t bent and went back to fishing. With the same technique I caught two more steelhead and got myself into another couple of good fighting battles with them.
 The bigger steelhead kept me on my toes as it swam nearer to the rocky bank and some of the downed tree branches. I had to keep the line from rubbing against exposed rocks and keep him away from the tangle of limbs. I succeeded and got him to the bank out of harms way.

 One of the other steelhead I caught had some jewelry attached in its lips. There was a guy that watched me get it to shore and we double teamed the fish for the operation of removing the extra hardware. After a little coaxing the fish swam off with good energy back across the creek to the deeper water.
 The guy that was catching fish before, in the spot I was now fishing, returned and fished up stream from me. He caught one more fish before he decided to call it quits. He asked me if I wanted the minnows he had left. I was puzzled because he was using a fly rod and I hadn’t noticed the minnows he had. When I asked him if that was what he was catching the steelhead on all that time he said he hooked the minnow on a Woolly Bugger. I told him no thanks and he was about to release the minnows just up creek from where I was fishing. I asked him not to as they would surely swim into the hole I was fishing. He said something about chumming and I tried to politely go along and said if I was fishing streamers I wouldn’t care. He went up creek a piece before he let the minnows go. You just never know!
 I told myself when I finished the cigar I’d quit. As the sun started to cast a shadow over the fast run I was fishing the fish didn’t appear to want to bite anymore. I did find one that took the sucker spawn. We battled it out for a bit and I began to force him towards me from down stream. He had a little more spunk than I anticipated and he ended up getting free. My sucker spawn was still on so I fished a bit longer till my cigar went out.

 On the way back to the van I felt a slight pain in my upper back I’m sure from standing in the water for so long. It was good to exercise my legs as I walked up the path instead of the short steps I take while wading. At the van I took a long drink of cold water and took out a few whole grain snack bars for the way home. I changed clothes and put the rod and reel away before getting into the drivers seat. I had about a two hour drive home and was trying to relax and condition myself for the drive. I had gotten up at 4:15 in the morning and it was now just after 6:00pm. I got to Erie and had been out fishing since about 7:00am. It was a long day indeed.
 After filling up with fuel I headed toward the interstate. I got on I79 and headed south. I found an AM station that had the penguin’s pre game show on. I tilted the captain’s chair back a bit, put down the arm rests and put the van on cruise control. It had been a fun day.



No comments:

Post a Comment