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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blessed Friendships

I gathered with some good friends on a favorite summer river a couple weeks ago for what is becoming an annual summer steelhead rondi.  I looked forward with much anticipation to gathering with my buds from "up north".  Adrian Cortes and Aaron Ostoj had arrived a day before me and got two campsites for our little crew of steelhead fanatics.  Steve Turner would drive down from Ridgefield, WA to catch up with us for a quick overnighter and morning session.

On the first day that I arrived, I caught up with Adrian and Aaron on one of the lower river pools. My alarm had gone off at 2:30am and I had left my home in Springfield by 3am, arriving at the river by about 4:50am - only steelheading could cause such maddness. The report was that the evening before, Adrian has raised and hooked a nice summer run on a green butt skater in the tailout of a pool further upriver.  After some line was coming off the reel, the hook pulled out, but very encouraging news to hear.

We split up water down at the area where we met.  After fishing through, we parted ways with  Adrian and Aaron hitting spots and I took off solo and hit several pools before the summer heat set in and we would meet back at the campground.  After fishing through my morning session, I headed for camp and I got my tent set up and settled in for a midday break.

The evening session was uneventful for me, but I was able to become familiar again with some of my favorite pools on this special river.  Back at camp that night, we compared notes and Adrian reported that he raised and hooked a steelie in the lower section of a big pool where some nice bedrock structure provided some cover.  He saw the surface attack and the steelhead was pulling line from his antique clicker.  He said he waited about ten seconds before hollering over to Aaron of the news of having a fish on.  Just moments later, the fish got unpinned.  However, raising and hooking 2 steelhead in two days is considered good fishing in my book.  Adrian's the top rod and on a hot streak.

Steve Turner arrived that evening and the talk of steelhead gulping skaters on top filled our discussions.  Steve, Adrian, and I have a upcoming trip planned for a BC river in mid Sept so our anticipation in planning for that trip was also in evidence.  It was decided that Steve would fish with me the following morning as we would cruise the river in search of steelhead in my beater 1990 Honda Accord.

The 4am alarm came too soon, but of course coffee needed to get made in time for us to head out at first light.  Steve is brand new to this river so it was fun to show him some of what I have learned of this special place over the past 5 years or so of fishing it each summer/fall.

I chose a pool which was an "easy wader" to start the morning, with the dim lighting of dawn.   I tried to get Steve to go through first, but he insisted that he wanted to sit back, learn about fishing the river and take photos.   I kept trying, but was unsuccessful in getting Steve to budge from his plan.  As I worked down the run, Steve kept even or below me on the bank as he took shots with his Nikon.  Towards the bottom of the run, Steve and I were chatting and I was just beginning to strip in for my next cast and rod got pulled down and jerked a couple times, evidently from a steelhead grabbing the skater at the dangle.  It was over as quickly as I realized what had happened, with my rod and line going limp.  As I stripped in, I noticed there was no resistance at the end of my tippet.  Sure enough the unseen steelhead pulled my fly right off my leader by breaking one of my bloot knots at the 8lb Maxima section.  I've been having a bad streak of breaking off fish right after the grab on this river - this one was probably at least the fourth steelhead that has done so to me down here.  I've got to do a better job of checking my knots.

We headed to another pool and while fishing short casts and watching my skater come into the transition zone between the fast main flow and inside water, a steelhead came up and gulped my waker down.  This guy gave a decent fight, but I soon realized he was a little "half-pounder" sized steelhead of not more than 20".  I won't complain though, every steelhead I encounter is special.

We fished a few more pools and then we came to one I wanted to show Steve.  This run does not get fished very often, judging by the overgrowth we encounter in getting down there.  I misjudged the angle of the sun in relation to this run,. so by mid morning, it was in full sunlight.  I was finally able to convince Steve to fish this run first since the light for photography was then poor.  I pointed out the casting station to Steve and point to lies where Adrian hooked up to a steelhead on a Jock Scott and a spot where Adrian raised one to a skater last year.  I tinkered with my fly boxes as Steve made casts and extended his line.  When I looked up, I saw Steve making a cast to the far side and the skater swung across a choppy seam.  The white post I tie on my skaters was clearly visible in bright light conditions like this.  The skater comes through the seam and is promptly attacked by a steelhead.  I think both Steve's and my jaws dropped at that moment and surprisingly the steelhead didn't get hooked on that rise.

I showed Steve a few more pools before completing our morning sesstion.  We met back at camp for lunch break before Steve left to return home.  Aaron and Adrian broke camp and we visited for a bit, looked into each other's fly boxes and I was even gifted with an exquisitely tied Jock Scott from Aaron, who like Adrian, is a very talented tyer of classic salmon flies "in-hand" (no vise).  I was able to give a few more of my foam skaters to the guys as well.  I think since the guys may not use as much foam and deer/elk hair in their classic salmon flies, that they are willing to accept my crudely tied patterns.  I was honored to share my patterns with my friends and that they've actually raised/hooked fish on them.

I also showed off the flies gifted to me by Mike Papais (see my prior blog entry) and we continued to talk about this swell fellow who we have yet to meet face to face.  I fished Mike's flies a fair amount during this trip and Adrian borrowed one of Mike's patterns to swing as well.  Mike's flies look absolutely great swimming on the swing.  I was able to try some of the smaller patterns as comebacks to rises that could have been steelhead and I fished some of the larger patterns as a primary presentation on some runs.  Surprisingly, I just got  several trout and a 14" half pounder size steelhead on Mike's flies, but it is inevitable that these gorgeous gifts will get me a steelhead at some point.

Aaron's fly box:

In Hand Masters:

Flies from Mike Papais:

Rarely caught in front of the lens, Steve Turner fishing a run in full morning light:

Steve raised a steelhead right here:

Steve Turner shared the series of photos below from the morning he fished with me.  Steve is a master of light and composition.  His incredible talent is evident here - too bad his selection of male models was limited to a scrubby steelhead fanatic from Springfield (me)!

Steve has become enamored with this special place after his first visit.  He returned this past week to spend a few days on the river.  Steve and I were able to gather again last friday, when I was able to meet up with him for the day.  He insisted on me fishing runs first, even though he is the one that is new to the river.  I tried, but couldn't argue Steve out of his kind and generous nature.  Steve did the driving that day in his luxury new F150, so it was a day of traveling in comfort for me.  Steve also treated me to a wonderful lunch.  I feebly tried to reciprocate Steve's kindness and generosity with more flies and pointing out more spots on the river.  It turns out Steve did a great job of sniffing out surface steelhead on his own during his stay.  He raised and hooked a hot steelhead in a non-decript run that he found on the evening before I met up with him and he hooked into a similar 5/6lb range steelhead at a new spot we fished together  that morning.  Both fish got unpinned, but the thrill of the surface grab and hookup is never soon forgotten.

Thanks to all of my fishing friends for wonderful days on the river and great companionship that reach far beyond fishing.

Blessed by His Grace,



  1. Very nice. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully it it won't be to much longer before I get down there.

  2. Let me know when you head down, maybe I'll be able to meet up with you.