Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dry Spell

Seems like steelhead fly fishing blog posts are supposed to be exciting, heroic stories of fish caught and lots of them at that.  I love when I have experiences that warrant those kinds of fish stories, but my reality is that I often go through dry spells with days, weeks, sometimes months between solid connections with steel.  In fact I'm right in the middle of a good dry spell right now.  It's been at least a couple months since I've experienced a solid hookup with a steelhead and several weeks since I've raised a steelhead to the surface.  This can seem dismal and hopeless, especially considering that I'm out fishing at every opportunity throughout the year, but the inner vision of a steelhead grabbing on the surface keeps me persisting with my efforts during the summer/fall season.

Sometimes my dry periods are due to my stubborn choice of sticking with dry line techniques.  For instance, in the winter, even though it can be tough to keep the faith while fishing with a dry line and heavy irons when my buddies who are competent sinktip fisherman are fishing circles around me, my persistence is unwavering.  In the summer, most folks are fishing dry lines anyway, but for some reason, I insist on making a tough game tougher by fishing surface flies almost exclusively, even over my local hatchery steelhead.  Again, when my more realistic fishing friends prudently go to wet flies when the skaters aren't producing and start getting fish, I'm still out there persisting after the surface grab.  But then again, some of my fishing buds (won't mention names, but Craig, Tony, Cory, Keith, etc know I'd be talking about them) are just fishy anyway, often out-fishing me at my own dry line games.

Steelhead on the fly is a tough challenge any way you look at it, a game that separates the casual from what can be a very dedicated and obsessive crowd.  While being able to withstand long periods without fish can seem virtuous (in some twisted way), it remains a worrisome condition that in our day and age, modestly competent fly fisherman (myself included of course) can fish with dedicated persistence and go empty handed for the great majority of the time.   In the summer and fall, I am blessed to fish over wild steelhead on the North Umpqua along with my opportunistic local jaunts after hatchery summer runs.  Thus far, I've yet to find any kind of consistency on the NU even after fishing it for the past 4 years and my backyard river, the Middle Fork Willamette gives up surface steelhead very sporadically at best, and this year has been especially poor with the low returns.

No surprise that my inner vision of what steelheading should be came out of my repeated readings of Dry Line Steelhead with Bill McMillan's depictions of surface fishing techniques that came out of his fishing experiences on his beloved Southwest Washington rivers - rivers that were already in decline at the time of his writings.  As I described in a prior post, I was fortunate that my early surface steelheading dreams came to life on the Bulkley River, BC in 1995, when I was first able to actually experience surface steelheading like I read about in Dry Line Steelhead.  I am both blessed and cursed by these early influences and experiences in that they have embedded a mental picture that I continually seek to see repeated at just about any cost - even in the face of repeated and prolonged skunkings.  I often feel like an old man stubbornly holding to the good old days.  Most folks will just do what it takes to get a fish and happily get on with things, but I remain trapped in my own self-imposed and confined definition of success as I just can't let go of those images that give meaning to steelheading for me.

Yes, there are a few places that produce fishing like the old days, with good numbers of fish and little fishing pressure, but such places are getting harder and harder to find and/or require travel and expense.  With greater numbers of fisherman like me seeking quiet places out and with the internet, there are really no secret places anymore and I am not affluent enough to afford to maintain a yearly itinerary at various steelhead lodges in BC.  My reality involves fishing well known rivers, over dwindling stocks of wild steelhead (or only hatchery steelhead), with fishing pressure ever on the rise.  Therefore, it's not surprising that aggressive steelhead on the surface can be an extremely rare prize for me to encounter.

While this post sounds more like a lament, I continue to feel blessed that I have experienced some magical days when my crazy mental picture is fullfilled - when aggressive steelhead come to the surface in summer or when that line comes tight on a dry line grab in winter.  The beauty of these moments keeps me going in my unwavering faith that I will experience them again.

A nice bright winter hen that grabbed a MOAL in March

Hatchery steelhead do take skaters, somtimes: 

A nice Deschutes buck, the fly: #6 steelhead caddis

A memorable early December dry line buck

First winter steelhead taken on a traditional Winter's Hope

First winter steelhead taken on a skater!

Reminiscing helps during dry spells!!

No comments:

Post a Comment