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.

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