Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shaking Off the Dust

Shaking Off the Dust

  The indicator went under and I yanked back the 7 weight fly rod like I hooked a bass. The chrome steelhead took off like a wild stallion. It was if the fly line couldn’t cut through the lake surface water fast enough to keep up with the steelhead as it accelerated out towards deeper water. Line peeled off the reel spool as I kept a white knuckle grip on the cork handle with the rod tip arced and the butt in my gut. The guys to my right brought there lines in quickly and watched the show.
 The steelhead leaped upward, breaking the water surface, as did the rest of the fly line. I let the rod tip down hoping the hook didn’t dislodge. Once the steelhead returned to the water it didn’t take long before I felt the streaking silver bullet again speed through the lake. With the rod held high, trying to keep as much line above the surface as possible, I tried to guide it towards the shore. It continued out from the shoreline a ways to my right and I began to wade along the stony shore keeping the line above the bowing fishermen.
 The steelhead turned and shot up the shoreline towards me and I cranked the reel handle on the mid arbor while backing up on the bank trying to keep tension on the line. A fellow appeared beside me with a net and commented he’d net it for me. I tussled with the steelhead like a mad dog that keeps tugging at a rope and won’t let go. Nearer to the shore he tired a bit and did more splashing tugs than speedy escapes. I cranked in line when I could and continued to back up on dry land. Finally the other fisherman got the steelhead in the net with the goldish orange sucker spawn hooked tightly in its mouth. That sure did shake any dust off the rod and reel and put some excitement in these old bones.

 I fished till twelve and that was my only strike while fishing in the lake. I saw maybe a half dozen steelhead taken which is a slow day. I gathered up my stuff and headed to the van.

 After seeing pictures posted of early steelhead I started to get the itch and couldn’t resist but make the trip up no matter the conditions. The water in the creeks has been low, real low. We hadn’t had enough rain that amounted to anything big enough to get a good run of steelhead up the creeks. A few days that we did get some rain did bring some early fish in though. I heard that any steelhead that has made it up creek have been concentrated near the railroad and highway tunnels. Other than that I found a few scattered under overhanging branches where the fish are shaded from the sun and where the water is deep enough to hold them. Problem is most of these places where the fish are, are surrounded by fishermen and are spooky because of the clarity of the water.
 After walking up and down the creek looking for fish I finally found a pod, under some overhangs, that others weren’t paying attention to. I tried streamers and sucker spawn for some time without a take. I finally decided to do some slow bottom nymph fishing without an indicator.

I knotted on a Hare’s Ear and side armed my casts under the tree branches. I was getting some good casts landing the nymphs near the far bank ledge where the fish were holding. There was just enough current to slowly drift my nymph down creek through the pod of fish strung out along the ledge. After the nymph slowly drifted and tumbled down creek I started bringing the nymph in with a slow retrieving crawl and stopping the nymph now and then. The line pulled away and I pulled back immediately while lifting the rod. That’s when the surface water erupted like an underwater explosion.
 The fish swirled beneath and headed down creek leaving a wavy wake that followed her. I tightened up my grip and let the fish do the work fighting the spool tension. A rising surge noisily erupted the surface, down creek, with tugging head shakes. I backed up and tightened the drag a couple of clicks quick enough before she took off with another surging run. I was on the wet muddy bank when she decided to turn and head up creek along the far bank. I reeled in line as quickly as I could as she rushed pass me. When the other fishermen, up creek, seen the steelhead heading their way they brought in their lines and watched. After a short tugging battle I got her turned around with more tension on the line. The steelhead shot back down creek and I reeled in line again until she again passed me going in the opposite direction. She ripped off line but didn’t go as far down creek as before. She tired some under pressure and swam cross creek twisting her body now and then trying to lose the hook. I got the steelhead battling in the middle of the creek before me trying to get her to the bank. She countered with headshakes as we challenged each other like an all out tug of war. I walked through the mud back towards the water as I fought with her just down stream from me. I got her between me and the bank and got her into shallow water to handle her.

 I was crawling the nymph along the bottom as I had been doing.  I saw a few fish casually swimming down creek and watched one in particular. This one fish cruised just beyond and over my crawling nymph, turned abruptly and I seen it angle downward towards my nymph. As soon as I seen the line twitch I yanked back and I had another steelhead on the line. It too gave me a good running battle and I succeeded in landing this one also.

 My last steelhead grabbed the nymph as I was crawling it along the bottom. I actually felt a slight tightness as I was bringing the line towards me and my instinct pulled in the line sharply as I lifted the rod. The steelhead yanked the line with force before turning and ripping line off the spool down creek. This steelhead gave me a good battle also. Every time I got it towards me and thought I tired it out, with a tail swat that splashed water about, it took off again with force taking line out.

 After that I fished for another hour or so without a fair hook up. After finishing another cigar I headed to the van.
 After cleaning up and changing clothes I headed to Girard to fill up the tank. Rolling down the highway I lit my rewarding cigar for the drive home.
 For the many hours I was out I only hooked up 4 times. Those 4 battling steelhead made for a good day and got me excited that another steelhead season is upon us.


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