Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Merry Fishiness

Merry Fishiness

 I met up with Jeff on the upper part of Elk Creek early Sunday morning. The water had receded overnight from the snow melt and rain on Saturday but it was still running fast, a little high and chocolate. Knowing where to fish during these conditions is a great help and I knew where we might have a chance to hook up to some steelhead. We headed over to Lower Walnut in hopes that there wasn’t a crowd.
  The Manchester hole already had a dozen or so guys fishing it. Down below the bridge there were only a few stragglers trying there luck. In the parking lot there were more fishermen, not too many, gearing up. I dressed quickly and told Jeff where to meet me. I strung up the 9’ fly rod and headed down to the water.
 I found the water was kind of murky also but looked not as chocolate as Elk. It was the color of watered down coffee with cream. I crossed the creek and headed up to a section I thought I would get a good drift through. With the water color I decided a bright color sucker spawn would attract attention, and though might not convince a strike, might get a fish over to see a more convincing dropper spawn to their liking.
 Jeff wasn’t too far behind and stayed on the roadside of the creek. I had told him earlier where I hooked up the day before and he found a good starting point and was getting some good drifts. Jeff hooked up first and played the steelhead through the wavy, fast current to the bank. 

  A couple of buds showed up and we all proceeded to find hungry fish in the stained water. We would hook up now and then but were only able to land just a few. 

  Since we were closer to the lake I figured there were quite a few fresh fish coming in and were friskier than the holdovers up creek. When one was hook it would give us a squirrelly forceful fight in the narrow stream. One of the steelhead I brought in the hook was just pierced through the skin near its lip. One more forceful escape or skyward jump and I’m sure he would have got off.
 Overall it turned out we hooked up enough to keep our attention and mood on the plus side. More people showed up later in the morning. A few started to crowd in, within rod length, but that’s something to expect at the access area so there wasn’t any reason to get too frustrated, besides it was Christmas.
 In the afternoon Jeff and I went and fished upper Elk. The water had cleared up some but was still stained. It was also was high and fast but still fishable. I hooked up only twice in the few hours we roamed the stream. Caught and kept one for Jeff to throw in the smoker.
 Here’s a few Christmas steelhead I had the pleasure of meeting briefly during our time on the water.


Friday, December 23, 2016

December Chill

December Chill

 Snow covered every inch of ground overlooking the creek. Ice crusted over the shallow stones along the bank that crunched when stepped on. The leafless trees, which protruded over the stream banks, looked feeble as their gnarled branches resembled knuckles along the limbs. Their thin twigs reached out like frail finger aching in the coldness. Sheets of ice extended from the bank where the water was beyond the main current flow.
 I was bundled up, feeling as if in a cocoon, with 5 or 6 layers of clothing keeping me warm beneath. My Yukon fur cap kept my head warm and I would let the fur flaps down occasionally warming my exposed ears. My exposed finger tips, out from my fingerless gloves, were not as sensitive when tying knots. The frigid water didn’t feel as cold as layers of fleece and polypropylene were worn underneath my neoprene chest waders. My polarized shades were used more to keep the cold breeze from tearing up my eyes than for trying to see through the greenish tinted stained water. Other than that it was a fine day to steelhead fish without crowds.

  Though we knew the temps weren’t going to get above freezing till close to noon, we greased up our fly lines and rod eyes and headed out in the morning anyway. Slush flowed on the water surface in masses for the first couple of hours. This hampered our ability to get slush free casts and drag free drifts. The other two guys I was with got a couple of hook ups while I patiently waited. We had about a 4 mile hike of fishing back to a waiting vehicle so I figured eventually my turn will come. When it did come it came in bunches.
 Donny had just had a couple of hook ups and Mike hooked up once before Donny decided to take a break and have a beer. I moved down to where Donny was fishing at the long slower water tail out. Chunks of ice floated upon the surface water so my casts had to be pretty accurate at times or I would end up tugging ice or wasting a cast with my sucker spawn sitting on the ice chunks.

 My first hook up may have been a foul hook. The indicator wobbled unnatural during the drift and I lifted up for the hook set. The tip of the rod bowed, the line tightened and I gripped the cork handle with my cold fingers. The steelhead hesitated a second before B-lining up creek like a dragster racing to the finish line. Line shot out through the guides and when I tried to slow him down, by palming the spool, the hook let loose and I was fishless. At least I got a taste of steel and it had my blood flowing a little warmer.
 A few casts later my indicator slowly started to dip under and I yanked the rod upward. The slack in the line straightened, the indicator popped up out of the water and I felt the tip of the rod bow downward. I knew right then I had something and when the rod flexed, with a jolt from the other end, I knew it wasn’t rock bottom. The steelhead ran its gambit searching the pool of water and tugging occasionally trying to free the hook. I held on tight and took in line when the chance came. Out mid creek the steelhead did some kind of underwater acrobatic whirl as the line went limp and than tightened again. Playing the fish felt a bit different and when I got it to the surface for the first time it looked as if it was a foul hook. I did notice the steelhead shaking its head and was pretty sure I seen the chartreuse sparkle spawn creasing the edge of its mouth. In an instant it went back down below and struggled with the line as I gingerly brought it to the ice along shore. Sure enough the bottom fly was stuck in its pectoral fin and was wrapped around its body ending with the top fly in its mouth. After unlacing her I settled her down for a wet, cold finger snap shot.

  It wasn’t but a few casts later I had another. This one gave me a short battle before it got free.
 Donny headed down creek and Mike just passed behind me to follow Donny. I gave one last cast and let the drift take me down creek. The indicator just bobbled enough that I thought I had a subtle strike. I lifted the rod and sure enough the line tightened and a battle ensued with a hefty steelhead. The brute surfaced once and Mike thought it looked like a brown trout because of the darkness of its body. From my angle I could see it was a dark steelhead that apparently been in the creek for a while. Mike figured it went 3-4 lbs as he watched me struggle with the steelhead. It lunged outward a few times, gave the old head shakes and at times I thought I had him coming my way. He found strength enough time and again and kept his distance with forceful pulls. I was pretty far up on the bank trying to get him into the shallower water when the rod went light and straightened skyward. The big fish won the battle and left me with a shortened leader broken just below a knot.
 On our travels along the creek we would stop now and then fishing likely spots and mostly the deeper tail outs. Occasionally one of us would hook up but nothing like the pod we hooked into up creek. We weren’t landing too many but at least one of us would hook up now and then to keep our interest.
  We were in a narrower run with an ice shelf cresting the far bank. A lot of times steelhead would lay beneath the shelves out of harms way but occasionally you can get one to come out for a snack if they are curious or hungry. Mike was right above me and got a quick hook up but lost it in the faster current.
 I looped a roll cast up creek and watched as the indicator drifted by me. It looked like a good even drift with the current and I watched the indicator bobble upon the surface waves as if my sucker spawn was bumping the bottom. Down a bit the teardrop indicator turned up creek and I thought maybe I had a snag but I jerked the rod upward hoping for a fish. The line straightened and something weighty was taking the line down stream with the current in no hurrying manner. I though maybe I had a sunken limb or something to that effect as I let tensioned line draw threw my fingers not wanting to put undo tension on the 4X tippet I was using. I backed up towards the bank and finally, the hooked something rather, started a little struggle in the water and surface briefly. I seen it was a fresh jack and once it surfaced began to fight a lot stronger in the current pulling line down creek. I slowly followed the fish down, wading down along the bank, trying to keep him from surfacing in the faster current. Down in slower water I got the rascal to an ice shelf that extended from the bank. I heaved the steelhead upward on the ice to dislodge the hook. He was an energetic young steelhead and I had a hard time controlling the fish trying to keep it motionless enough to dislodge the sucker spawn from its mouth. 

 When I went to release him he didn’t hesitate a bit when he felt the cold water and took off with more energy than I would have expected given the cold conditions.
 The last hour before darkness neither of us got any strikes and we ended the evening walking up through the forest to the truck.

It had been a good day and lots of exercise. Donny figured we fished a 4 mile stretch of water. We couldn’t cover all the better spots because of time but we did pretty well in the sections we did fish as far as I was concerned.
 Mike took us back up to where we started and by that time darkness was falling fast. I stripped out of my neoprene chest waders that felt like I was removing an outer layer of thick skin. Before putting everything in the back seat/floor I started the 5.7L Hemi and let the Ram warm up a bit.
 I put the truck in 4 wheel drive as I drove up the ice/snow packed lane before hitting the black top. There I switched to 2 wheel drive as I head up the blacktop towards the interstate.
 On the interstate I reached over and took out an Illusione Rothchildes given to me by a couple of friends who know I like to enjoy a good cigar now and then. The smoke was on the milder side but was tightly packed for an even long burn for my travel home.

 After the last steelhead outing I hit a deer on the way home and totaled the PT Cruiser. This was the first outing with the 2016 Ram Quad and I’m sure there will be many more! 


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Stimulator Tute

The Stimulator

Hook; #10-#14 Curved 3x long hook
Thread; Orange
Tail; Natural deer body hair
Rib; Grizzly saddle hackle palmered
Abdomen; Yellow fur
Wing; Natural deer body hair
Thorax; Sulphur orange fur
Hackle; Grizzly palmered over thorax
Head; Orange thread

My version of how I tie the Stimulator.
Note, I like to use a saddle hackle for palmering due to the fact the barbs are even length as oppose to a cape hackle.

1. Base hook shank and end base so the thread is hanging down even with the hook barb for reference.
1a. Bring thread to about 1 third behind eye as shown.

 2. Tail. Trim a bit of natural deer hair and even tips in a hair stacker. (I trim the butts some so there is less flair.)
Measure the deer hair about 2/3 the hook shank.
Hold the tail at the hook bend, where the end of the thread is on the bend.
Starting from, behind the hook eye, make a couple soft loops over the deer hair and than tighten the wraps winding back towards the bend.

2a. Trim the hair butts even behind the eye where you started the thread wraps.
Cover the deer hair with thread back to the bend.
I trim any unruly deer hair that is standing straight up from the hook shank.

3. Hackle. Tie down grizzly saddle hackle in front of tail.

 4. Abdomen. Dub abdomen with yellow fur to behind eye as shown

 5. Rib. Palmer grizzly hackle over body. Tie off, do not cut hackle, in front of body dubbing. I leave the hackle beneath the hook shank so it doesn’t interfere when I tie in the wing.

 I make a couple of wraps of thread behind the hackle and than bring thread behind the eye leaving enough room for the head.

 6. Wing. I measure it so the tips reach about ½ the tail length. Trim a bit of natural deer hair and even the tips in a hair stacker. As I did with the tail, wrap over the deer hair wing from behind the eye back toward the hackle and tie down just behind the hackle.

 6a. Trim the butts behind the eye of the hook and cover with thread wraps bringing thread behind hackle.

7. Thorax (Sulphur orange fur). Dub the thorax, with a couple of wraps behind the hackle, and than forward behind the eye leaving room for the head.

8. Palmer the thorax with a couple of wraps of the grizzly hackle, trim and tie off.

9. Head. Make head with orange thread, tie off and whip finish.