Got out to a favorite summer river with fellow dry line steelhead enthusiast Terry Robinson a couple weeks ago. I hadn't fished with Terry in quite a while so it was great to catch up as we took turns fishing through runs. We came to a run perfectly made for the surface fly. After coming through some rapids, the river breaks into a pool where the flow pushes towards the far shore with a perfect seam forming where the main flow softens on the near side. I started at the head of this run, beginning with short casts and lengthening line until I was throwing my Ambush head and about 7 strips of running line. I would cast several feet into the choppy main flow and gently twitch my green butt skater during the swing until it settled into the soft water below me. On each cast, my anticipation would build as I'd watch my skater coming out of the choppy flow and swinging through the seam that formed the transition between the main flow the the slower inside water.
As I got through about a third of the way through this run, as my skater was coming through that fishy seam, a steelhead came up with a slashing rise to the skater and missed the fly. I kept twitching the fly until it settled at the hang down and closely watched my fly for any follow up attack by the steelie. Terry was standing about even with me on shore as he waited to get in behind me as I worked further down the run. I told Terry that I just raised a steelhead. Terry and I watched my fly closely after I made the same cast. As my skater came through the zone that stirred my anticipation, the steelhead came back up and erupted at the fly. A broad flash of silver with a hint of pink was seen as my fly disappeared in the showy rise. I felt the initial pull and gently raised my rod to remove slack and to check if the steelhead was hooked. The steelhead gave me a couple head shakes and as I was bracing to hear a screaming Hardy Perfect on the steelhead's first run, the line snapped back into my face in a tangled mess. As I sorted things out, I realized that my fly was missing from the end of my tippet. I noted a small curl about where I had tied the loop knot on my skater. I wondered if I had tightened down too hard when tying the loop knot or maybe I had a wind knot on my tippet?? I was puzzled over the quick loss of the steelhead which looked to be a broad shouldered specimen in the 12lb range. It didn't seem that this steelhead was yet pulling hard enough to break even a weakened knot at the fly. Perhaps it just got the right kind of leverage and flopped it's body against the tippet just after the hookup to cause the break - no matter, my questions would not bring it back.
I was so glad to be able to share in the excitement of that brief hookup with Terry as he was able to watch the whole thing unfold as I made a comeback cast to that steelhead. Terry was at a slightly higher vantage point and he was actually able to see that the steelhead had "nosed" at the fly a couple times in the choppy flow before attacking the fly in the softer seam where it come up initially.
This brief steelhead encounter left a burning image in both mine and Terry's memories that will last at least until our next surface steelhead encounters!