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!





  1. That's a heck of a day...beautiful fish!!

    1. Thanks. did quite a bit of walking to get away from the crowds.