My winter season got off to a good start with a solid hookup on my first outing in early December 2012 that resulted in a strong run across the pool and then my tippet parted, probably due to having broken off a fly on a snag earlier that day and there being unseen abrasions causing the break. Can't remember when I broke off a fish before that.
I got another hookup the following weekend on one of my "dryline intruders", tied like Ed Ward's, but employing a simple tinsel body to allow the fly to sink more effeciently on a dryline. I made a bum cast where my Rage head landed in a pile due to my running line tangling, when I began gathering my slack running line and came tight to the head, I felt solid resistance and then saw chrome breach the surface. Just as I looked back to my friend Craig Coover, who was fishing above me, my line went slack. Thinking the hook pulled out, I just retrieved my head back and when I made another cast, I felt nothing at the end of my leader. I found that my Maxima butt section broke off at the 30lb section! Two hookups and two consectutive break offs. I vowed to check my tippet more often and change my butt section each season.
At the end of December, I had a small window of opportunity when my wife Wendi wanted to go to play Bingo and made a deal that I could fish if I went with her. I hurriedly dropped Wendi off for the big bingo game and then I blazed off to the river for a quick couple hours of fishing. I was fishing a newly acquired 7wt single hand glass rod and promptly broke it in when I brought my first dryline winter steelhead to hand for the season. This fish grabbed a simple black/blue marabou intruder with medum lead eyes:
At the next spot we fished, I got this buck on a red/or MOAL fished broadside in a flat above some rapids:
Craig walked back to me just as I landed this fish, then he busted out his phone and showed me a pic of an identical looking buck that he had just got in the pool below. We traded spots, and in the same place where Craig hooked his second fish, I hooked yet another buck that looked identical to the one I just landed. I got a look at the fish after a couple strong runs when it flashed on the surface. It took off and after a couple more strong runs, the hook on the MOAL pulled out. We called it a day after that and we both felt quite satisfied.
It seemed that in the remainder of January and February, I was getting consistent reports from Craig and Keith Tymchuck about them making contact with fish. It definitely shaped up to be good winter steelhead season for us.
In early February, I started being able to talk my friend Tony Torrence into coming out with me on some of my winter outings. A wonderful highlight was a day in early February when Tony came out with me and he went 3 for 3! I couldn't believe it when he told me these were the first three winter steelhead he has ever caught on a swung fly. After Tony got the first two fish, he graciously tried to talk me into going through first on one of the last pieces of water we were fishing that day. I remember telling Tony "nah, you go through first, I gotta change my fly, go make it a 3 for 3 day". Tony started in and I fished in a pool above him and after a few minutes, I hear his brand new 4" Hardy Perfect screaming again. This big beautiful hen was the end result of the battle Tony won:
Tony was unstoppable on the next several trips out and he didn't go home without a fish story very often. Tony got into tying some beautiful married wings and gave me one:
It seems winter is the time that brings me together with my fishing friends. Keith Tymchuck (Moethedog on Speypages) and Craig Coover have been my regular winter fishing companions. This year Adrian Cortes, a phenomenal classic Atlantic Salmonfly tyer who ties "in hand" (you'll know him as Fshnazn on Speypages) joined me for a few winter outings as well. Along with being a talented tyer and one of the nicest guys one could meet, Adrian is a mighty man of God and I greatly enjoyed our rich discussions about our common foundation with Jesus Christ as our savior during our drives to the river and while fishing. I began communicating with Adrian through Speypages and Westfly and we quickly realized we had common ground in our faith and love for dryline steelheading. Adrian is seen below tying on one of his incredible classic married wings:
With the exception of a nice buck that I hooked and lost on a 5/0 Winter's Hope in late Feb and the small steelhead I got on the surface in late March, the latter half of my winter steelhead season slowed down as far as catching went. All in all, it was a blessed time as I was able to enjoy the splendor of God's creation, often in the company of my wonderful fishing friends.