As my winter steelhead season came to a close in late April, I reflect back on great days on the water with good friends, but it was a lean season that afforded plenty of time for casting practice, perfecting the dry line winter swing, and field testing the wonderful JM Reid 8592 prototype (wrap up review to come). It's been a time of contemplating life as a halfway competent fly fisher who has been catching very few fish for whatever reason.
As I've transitioned into my spring fishing routine on my local waters - the Willamette/Middle Fork Willamette and McKenzie, my focus moved to trout fishing and the outside chance at an early spring salmon or hatchery summer steelhead.
I have to confess feeling like a hypocrite at this time of year. The reason is that as a guy who has a blog with a title "Dry Line Steelhead", springtime on my local rivers is the time when I find myself rationalizing and making compromises...... a time when.....gasp.....I'll sometimes actually talk myself into looping on Skagit heads and tips, even T-14 and big intruders for periods of time. I use reasons like high water, low numbers of fish over the falls, the need for big flies to have a chance at a springer, etc... Don't know why I beat myself up like this when I go to the "dark side", when honestly, a properly balanced skagit/tip setup is actually smooth and pleasurable to cast. As John Gierach wrote "once priorities are established, they must be maintained" (paraphrase) so I probably feel a sense of loyalty to the dry line methods and the man who inspired them in me. so swaying from them leaves me feeling unsure.
A few years ago, my "experiments" with a skagit head/T14/intruder actually resulted in a quick payoff in very high water that was barely wadeable. On a day in mid June, I hooked into a heavy fish that I soon realized was a small spring salmon. I was able to beach the fish on a small patch of shoreline that was was not underwater and as I eagerly anticipated having salmon for dinner, I was actually dismayed that I found this to be a rare MF Willamette springer with an adipose fin so had to release it! The very next day, with the same skagit/T14/Intruder, with the water level just a hair lower, I hooked into another hot fish, this time a chrome hatchery hen of about 30". For whatever reasons, I have not hooked another salmonid on the skagit/t14/intruder combo since Spring 2010.
The same Skagit/T14/black and blue intruder did the trick on this hatchery summer run:
As I continue seeking my first hatchery summer run or springer for the season, I've managed to occasionally break up my intense pursuit of anadromous species by taking my daughter Yolanda, son-in-law Kanoe, and 7yo grandson KJ to Leaburg lake with my driftboat to catch hatchery trout on power bait. This a good way to regain perspective on what fishing is all about.