Thursday, November 17, 2016

Are You Experienced?

Are You Experienced?

 The place was packed but they weren’t having any of it. It was as if I was an outsider at a local tavern and no one was paying attention to me. I tried almost everything I had to try to get some attention but hadn’t succeeded. Even the two out-or-towners, across from me, weren’t having any luck. I thought “maybe show them something different” or “maybe if I tease them enough I might get one to show me some gratitude.”  There had to be at least one steelhead in the bunch that would except my offering.

 I broke camp early Monday morning at first light. Packing everything in the PT Cruiser was time consuming but everything was put back in place for the drive home. So far my 4 day adventure steelhead fishing had gone well. I caught a few steelhead Friday and Saturday I joined in the Project Healing Waters Slam going on in the campground and along the Lake Erie Tributaries. I successfully got my veteran hooked up with some of his first steelhead. Sunday was a good day on the tributaries also. I figured on fishing this morning before heading home and packing up seemed to be a good idea before heading out. I knew I would get out on the stream a little later than I wanted to but I hoped there weren’t too many other anglers out being it was a Monday. Before leaving I dressed warm and put on my waders and wading boots to save time.
 I parked the loaded PT in the lot next to the creek. There were quite a few vehicles but not as many as the day before. I assembled my 9’ 7 weight fly rod and after fishing my line through the rod guides I was ready. I took a few cigars and a bottle of water for the day and headed up the road to where I wanted to enter the creek.
 Walking down creek there were anglers in the most likely holes as I expected. I was hoping to get in the same area I fished the day before but wasn’t sure till I turned the bend and took a glance downstream. Two gentlemen were along the bank trying there luck but there was no one on the opposite bank. The sun was already bright but there was still darkness half across the big pool of water and along the cliff side of the creek. Maybe other anglers hadn’t noticed the many fish in the pool and strung out in the tail end but I knew they were there yesterday and hoped they didn’t move upstream during the full moon lit night.
 I crossed the creek, upstream from the two fellows, and took my stand as I did the day before. It wasn’t long before we all carried on good friendly conversations between the three of us. One of the gentlemen was drifting nymphs and egg patterns while the other had a spinning rod and was drifting live and dead minnows in the pool.
 I rigged up a tandem sucker spawn combination and attempted to entice a strike of the many steelhead in the pool and tail out. I spent the first hour or so drifting tandem combinations of sucker spawn and nymph’s to no avail. The other two guys weren’t having any strikes either. I don’t give up too easily and always figured that there got to be one that can be fooled but so far the local steelhead appeared to be leery and too smart for us. It was time to show them something different.
 I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and decided to try to coax one of the steelhead with it. Using buggers or streamers in a pod of fish usually results in foul hookups which wasn’t what I wanted at all. I learned if I strip the buggers in slowly I’ll have less a chance to snag a fish. It is a delicate process and line control is a must. Knowing when a fish strikes the offering or just bumped along its side or fins is somewhat of a concern when and when not to set the hook. I found, through experience, a slow retrieve and the feel of the fly line tells me when I have a fair strike. It doesn’t always work when fish are moving around but it works better than making long fast straight strips causing deep hook sets and snagged fish.

 I casted out towards the other fellows and let the bugger swing down creek mid stream. With, slow inching strips, I brought the bugger towards me keeping a feel for a take and keeping my eyes in the water to see if any were following. Nearer to me I noticed a steelhead following it but turned off within my sight. This gave me a little more confidence and anticipation that just maybe?
 After a few more casts I watched the steelhead again take notice. On one such occasion, while the fish was following, I let the bugger drop but before hitting the creek bottom I raised the bugger back up. The marabou tail waggled and the steelhead swiped at it like it would at a wounded bait fish. I instantly yanked the rod up and the line tightened. I seen its head shake two or three times before it took off towards deeper water.
 “Fish on” I called out so the two gentlemen knew there was a wild one coming towards them. The battle was on! The steelhead ran wild in the pool of water like a nervous mother looking for a lost child in a large group of strangers. The steelhead surfaced a couple times and sent waves throughout the pool. I had a chance to tighten the drag and after doing so I began walking down creek trying to get the steelhead to follow. This way it would give the other guys a chance to continue fishing and would be easier to tame the fish in the shallow water. The fatty fish battled well but I kept control and got it safely to the bank.

 That broke the ice and gave me much needed confidence that these motionless steelhead were willing to strike if I had the right offering, movement of the bugger and making it too tempting for them to pass up. I caught one more unwise steelhead that put up a good forceful fight, before the fish decided enough was enough and aware the bugger was dangerous. I tried a couple of other color buggers but that didn’t work either. It was time to try something different again.
 I stepped back and gathered my thoughts. I lit a Brick House Fuma and looked around as the morning brightened. The suns rays were filtering through the bank-side trees , down creek,  and putting a sparkling glow where they reached the water. Smoke, from my fuma, rose from the foot and gently swirled in the air like the roof top chimney smoke in a winter calm.
 For the past few days I noticed quite a few steelhead were already paired up in the shallows. A friend, this weekend, felt some of the hens he had caught were spawned out by their soft bellies. If my experience tells me anything an egg sucking leech wouldn’t be a bad idea. Usually I don’t fish these till later on in the season but a fleeing egg sucking leech might fool a couple more fish.
  I looked through my bugger box and found a used, but still in good condition, egg sucking leech with an orange egg behind the eye of the hook. I knotted this on and gave it a try. Knowing I should strip the leech in longer strokes towards me, to act like it was fleeing a robbery, I moved down creek just a bit and worked the shallower back end of the tail out. It was on my first cast, with long strips towards me, that the line straightened and I set the hook. The steelhead shot up threw the surface and twisted its body in mid air trying to throw the hook. It plunged back into the water and without hesitation made haste up creek towards the deeper pool. The leader cut through the swirling water surface behind the fast fleeing fish. I held onto the cork grip and locked my wrists as the spool spit out line the further the fish darted. The fish continued through the pool further with lightening speed. The other guys evidently heard the surface commotion and had already taken their lines out of the water. At the head of the pool the steelhead whirled around, tugged at the line a couple of times, before heading back my way. I reeled in line into the mid arbor and kept the butt section upward as the mid section and tip section bowed towards the oncoming steel. I walked down creek into the shallows and the fish didn’t appear to want to do battle near me. It kept swimming in the shallowest water and I was afraid it was going to enter the faster current downstream. I brought the rod to my right and towards the bank to put side pressure on the fish. He appeared hesitant but turned back up creek. In front of me I struggled with the fish to get it along the stony shoreline and than up on the leafy bank.

  I unhooked the leech from the side of the mouth and he darted off back to join his friends.
 It wasn’t but a few casts later another steelhead took the leech in a sweeping take like a young kid swooping up a fresh baked cookie before mom turned her head as he headed out the screen door. I was in mid-sentence, telling the others what I was using, when the fish surprised me by the take. My cigar almost fell out from between my lips but luckily I bit down quick enough from letting that happen. Another lively steelhead reached the leaves safely. 

  After that there was a lull in the action and I figured I’d try a Triple Threat streamer. I knotted on one of my Ghost Patterns and let it swing towards the tail end into the shallows. I stripped it with long easy pulls, when a fish swept it up. Another battle and I had another steelhead. 

  For the rest of the afternoon I switched my offerings when the bite died down. The Woolly Bugger took most of the steelhead but all in all it was a challenge to get the fish to strike.

 Back at the car I changed clothes and I thought a reward for the successful weekend was well deserved. I took out a Fuente Double Chateau I had saved for such the occasion.

  The broad leaf wrapper was tasty and at full draw the flavor was smooth and very enjoyable!


A few more steelhead from Monday

 …And a few from Friday

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