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Friday, July 11, 2014

First Skater Hookup - 2014

Had my usual friday off today and another solitary day of fishing.  With the number of boats I've been seeing floating my home water lately, I didn't even bother hitching up mine and figured to just bank it and start at a popular bank fishing spot until it got too bright and hot.  The plan was to fish through the popular run then hike down, continuing to fish other minor runs accessible on foot.  I arrived at the river at first light and a gear guy pulls up at the same time and walks to the run and fishes the top.  Oh well, I started midway and fished down.  Getting to the lower section, I think I may have rolled a steelhead with my skater, but no come backs from this fish - maybe its was a trout.

I fished through the popular run and the minor runs below - hiked quite a ways down.  It was nice, peaceful and quiet down there, not a soul around and boats don't typically come through the area I was fishing.   By mid morning, a nice overcast set in, I was encouraged.

When I hiked back toward the car, the main run was totally barren, so I fished through it again, confident with the low light of the overcast - still nothing.

By 11:30 or so I decided to drive down to another bank spot.  I got a steelhead in this water a few weeks ago, but wanted to try higher up in this run.  I waded into the upper riffle and fished my way down into the ledgerock structure in there.  I was into a nice rhythm with cack handed single speys on my vintage glass rod and 3 7/8 Perfect - gear I hadn't used it a while but busted out just because I love fishing this combo.

Sometimes I wonder if I just have too much gear to choose from.  I have an array of old glass single hand rods and a few more modern two handed rods to choose from.  Sometimes I have irrational worries about certain pieces of equipment feeling neglected if I don't get them out once in a while.  From a practical standpoint, for the size of my homewater, it is best fished with my 12'6" two handers, but today, I was just in the mood to able to hear the Perfect scream again. 

Well, about a third of the way down into the edges of the ledgerock, I got my wish.  I was watching my new/improved/more sparkly waker coming around on the swing and it suddenly disappeared in a quick rise.  The line instantly came tight, but at first I wasn't sure if it was a big trout or a steelhead.  The weight of the headshakes and powerful runs that followed ID'd the fish - steelhead.  It gave a few powerful runs up and down and across the ledgerock and after a few minutes, as I drew the fish closer to the bank, I had what looked like a hen in the 9-10lb range with just a hint of color.  I eased my way to shore and she gave another blistering run, almost taking out all my running line.  I regained line and when I had her in sight again, she gave one of those thrashy, twisty things on the surface and the line went limp...............  I felt that weird combination of disappointment, gratitude, and laughter all at once and I looked up at my now weightless terminal gear.  My sparkly skater wasn't even harmed, no teeth marks on the foam or anything, which makes me wonder if I just had hooked into some skin on the outside of the mouth of the steelhead. 

Green butt skater tweaked for 2014 (red krystal flash added behind wing, funny how little details can add more confidence)

She's out there somewhere:

I was also using a smaller sized skater today, this one was tied on a Mustad #6 9671 equivalent (2xl streamer hook).  I've typically been fishing skaters tied on #4s, but with the short rises I had on those two steelhead I got on comeback wets a few weeks ago, I've wondered if these hatchery steelhead will more confidently take a smaller fly.  (I am recalling that I've actually taken a  good number of our local hatchery steelhead on skaters tied on 6's and even 8's)  Today's fish seems to give more evidence to that theory, but one hookup this season is too small of a sample size - guess I've just gotta keep fishing!  

I'm just thankful that these local  hatchery steelhead DO come up to take skaters once in a great while - fishing skaters on Willamette valley streams is not the best way to catch good numbers of these local pellet heads, but in my opinon, it's the most fun way to get them, one just has to put a lot more hours in for each fish, not a fair trade off for many.

Oh well, the moral of todays story is you can't bonk em' all.  I quit fishing by about 2pm and the overcast tempted me to continue on, but sometimes a guy's gotta say enough is enough, plus I have mechanical work on the old Bronco waiting (rear brakes and front wheel bearings).  I just felt thankful to have had the thrill of hooking into that surface grabbing steelhead, especially after all the hiking and casting I did this morning.  I just love the scream of that Perfect!


  1. Way to make the work pay off. Exciting story.

  2. Terry/Dean:
    Thanks guys, every steelhead I encounter with surface flies is a treasure and blessing!