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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Summer Ramblings

(Posting this retroactively, meant to put this up in mid August, time just flies by)

It is mid August and as I turned 52 yesterday (August 14, 2015), I meditated on the reality of being a middle aged steelheader as I skated beautiful runs with my good friend Keith Tymchuck.  I'm no spring chicken any more, but I thank God for my health and comfortable life that affords me ample opportunities to chase after the mystical steelhead with my chosen methods.  At my age, one starts contemplating the reality that my number of future days on the river are not endless and I gotta pace myself, be safe out on the river, and that I really should watch what I eat and start exercising for Pete's sake!  Well, isn't fishing exercise??  You mean coffee, chips, cookies, and sandwiches are not healthy??  At least I don't smoke...

Breakfast of champions!
Not a healthy fishing diet??

I've also been contemplating the way my fishing has been panning out over the past several months.  Namely, that I haven't put my hands on steelhead slime since November 1, 2014!!  Aside from a couple brief hookups, I was blanked throughout the past winter steelhead season and aside from a couple brief hookups in June, I've been blanked thus far for the summer season.  Pretty grim huh??

I'm not sure what's going on with the extra long dry spell I'm in the midst of - maybe God is trying to get a  message across to me like "time to seek a better balance in life, bonehead".  True, I do get a "little" obsessive about steelheading where things go by the wayside, like the wood gates that need to be rebuilt ("I'll get right to that, honey!"), not to mention other things that go with being a responsible adult.

Another lesson that God may be teaching me is about contentment.  Who in their right mind would consider chasing steelhead while rigidly adhering to certain methods, without success for so long??  I'm reminded that Jesus assures that His Grace is sufficient and this applies to fishing and life (fishing is life though, right?).

When I am out on the river, the beauty of His creation is always enough.  The fellowship of great friends is always enough and the blessing of having the opportunity to get out regularly is always enough.  I believe that is why I keep doing what I am doing even when my efforts continue to draw a blank.

I keep the faith, knowing that what I am doing has produced steelhead in the past and the flies I tie have drawn steelhead to the top in the past and several of the places I fish have produced memorable steelhead rises in the past.

My Newest and Favorite Color Combo:  Chartruese and Purple

A Day in the Life..........

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Needle In A Haystack

It's been a tough summer season on my local ditch, the Middle Fork of the Willamette.  Numbers over Willamette falls has been dismal and the record warm weather in July and August effectively created a thermal block downstream of the falls with literally no fish going over the falls through most of that time frame.  It was a strange summer with water temps peaking over 70 degrees for most of  July and August even on my home stretch of river, and due to these impossible conditions I only got out to fish a few mornings during that period with evening sessions not even worth the time and effort.

I strangely started to get used to coming straight home from work, with no fishing to be had.  Wendi was getting too accustomed to seeing me at home so much,.  It was not like me to be passing up so much fishing time.

As the cooling weather of fall has come upon us, there has actually been some steelhead starting to come over the falls since late August/early September.  A small bit of hope was restored in me and I started getting out on evening sessions after work - I felt normal again.  Water temps have come down to the mid 60's, still a bit warm, but good enough to hope for some hatchery surface action.

My trips out have been typically unsuccessful, but I keep trying anyway, of course with a skater on the end of my line.  My crazy theory is:  "most normal people adjust their methods to suit prevailing conditions, but with me, I prevail until conditions adjust to suit my method!!"

Yesterday evening was a typical opportunistic jaunt to a local run after work.  Wendi was working late so I didn't feel too bad about shirking responsibilities at home.  As I drove off from work, I contemplated over which local run to fish.  Since I hadn't really been getting any fish in any of them it would not really make much difference where I ended up fishing.

I figured I'd just hit the particular run that was most consistent at holding fish last year.  My thought process was that if any fish were around at all, this run would be the best barometer of such.

I started at the top of the run as I usually do, even though it is shallower in this year's lower flow.  I continued on through and thought that if I got done with this run early enough, I'd hit another one that I had not fished in awhile.

As I got to the lower section of the run, I was tracing the swing of my chartruese "stinger wang" foam skater.  The upright umm... indicator post was pretty visible in the softening flows of the bottom of the run in the pleasant evening glow.  As the fly was swinging through the soft transition from the main flow into the inside seam, my "internal dialogue" was going even with my long, long stretch of going without surface grabs.  Whenever I swing through juicy water I find the self-talk happening.  I was muttering stuff like "come on, eat that fly...gotta be a fish there....come on you dumb fish, etc", then as if in response to my utterings, slurp, fish on!

The rise was a rather subtle gulp, but I think after enough time spent chasing surface steel, I immediately knew it was a steelhead, just by the appearance of the rise.  It seemed that the stinger hook on my skater took immediate hold of this fish.  The line came tight and a few headshakes followed, then the steelhead swam towards me and I hurriedly recovered line to keep up with the fish.  It's times like this when I am glad that I switched to reeling with my right hand several years ago.

As I got tight to the steelhead, I was nearly to the point of having the leader butt at the tip of the rod, then of course Ms. Steelhead decides to utilize her short game fighting tactics with some near shore tug of war going back and forth.  Knowing this was a hatchery steelhead, I backed myself  up the bank and beached her.  I was overcome with feeling blessed by this rare, if imperfect and unlikely prize.  With the small numbers of steelhead around, it felt like finding a needle in a haystack.

Chartruese Stinger Wang does the trick

A Rare Prize