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Friday, October 2, 2015

Dry Fly Steelhead Window Of Opportunity

Being in the midst of the fall season, I have gotten into the rushed, frantic mode of trying to get every bit of steelhead skating in that is humanly possible.  It is a mixed blessing to have a hatchery home water in my backyard.  The convenience is great, but it makes me extra obsessive each Fall.  A sense of urgency is felt with the shorter days and with the weather and water temps cooling.  The inevitability of winter coming around the corner puts me in a state of mind where I am always scheming for every window of opportunity  during this most wonderful time of year when steelhead will be most willing to break the surface to grab my weird pieces of foam and hair surfing across my favorite runs.

In my experience, Fall is consistently the very best time of year to get into steelhead with surface methods.  I suppose it is a variety of factors that seem to consistently make fall the prime season to skate steelhead to the surface including the lower angle of the sun, rivers filled with the majority of the summer run, fewer anglers out (on my water at least), cooling water, steelhead secure in their lies, and frequent overcast weather.

I love steelhead rivers in Fall as well with the brilliant colors as leaves turn, softer lighting, and no longer having to deal with the blistering heat of summer.  Fall conditions also allow one to fish throughout the day if one pleases.  Summer tends to be a morning and evening show and with the shorter days of fall, I am able to get a bit more sleep and still make it to the river at sunrise.

However, the shortening days of Fall creates a nervousness in me as I am constantly calculating how much daylight I'll have left when I leave work to get out on my evening weekday sessions.  Wendi has been promoted as a manager at her workplace this past year which has been great for her, but she tends to be a workaholic so she often works late.  This creates more windows of opportunity for me to get out on my evening sessions.

As noted in my prior posts, the numbers of fish around have been small, but it appears that small pods of fish must be coming into my local water which is enough to keep me interested and obsessed.  Since getting the steehead in my prior post, I had a multi hookup session (both got off)  the following day, then things went dead.

I figure the only way to get into surface steelhead is to keep a hook in the water so I've persisted with my efforts even when it seems the few fish around have left town.  Yesterday was a typical day of going to work with my thoughts going on about how to get an evening session in.  Turns out Wendi was not working late, but had errands to do so she suggested I go fishing afterwork - great advice!

One problem, my daughter had texted and informed that her car wouldn't start.  I ran over to check over her vehicle at the end of the day and determined that her starter was binding up.  I did the tapping the starter with a wrench trick and got her car started so she could drive it to my house for me to repair that evening.

With the impending car repair weighing on my mind, I debated on whether to fish for a bit then run home to work on my daughter's car, or forget fishing all together and just get right to work on the car..... of course, fishing won out.

I rushed to my favorite little run and started at the top.  Feeling hurried while fishing is not my favorite mode to be in while pursing the surface steelhead prize, but obviously, I have a problem so I kept at it anyway.  I tried to move through more quickly than I normally do, but there are multiple spots that have given me fish out of this special place so I found myselft having a hard time just rushing through.

When I had arrived at the run, I noticed that the Army Corps had raised the water just a bit, usually a good thing on this river in my experience.  Sure enough, about a third of the way down, a steelhead came up and charged at my skater with a quick rise.  Went through the comeback routine and no sale.

I continued on down the run and as I got towards the bottom I was thinking how the holds through there are filled in now and could hold fish.  As my skater came through the braided currents a steelhead came up to the skater multiple times as if it was a dolphin playing with a ball on it's nose.  I expected my line to come tight, but no.  With a fish this active, I felt pretty confident about a comeback so I cast again, nothing.  I tried a riffle hitched steelhead caddis - nothing, then a smaller skater - nothing, then a riffle hitched wet - nothing, then a wet with no hitch - nothing!

My time was just about up before I had to get home to get my hands greasy, but something told me to just walk back up a little ways and start back through with a different skater.  I had been fishing my current favorite chartruese/purple job and I then decided to tie on my blue/purple skater I call the "Summer's Hope".

As I got my casts back out with the Summer's Hope, I pondered over my frustration that both of the fish I raised this evening were "one timers" and that I'd have to leave after making a few more casts.  When I got back to where I raised the second steelhead, he came back with a confident, porpoising rise and I simply did nothing until I felt the steelhead pulling.  I slowly raised the rod and the steelhead was on and the stinger hook did it's job in taking immediate hold in the jaw of this buck.

This guy gave a few headshakes and like the last steelhead I got, just came right in and then batlled in close with a few short, stubborn runs.  When I got him in, I found the stinger hook lodged firmly in the lower jaw of the fish.  I got a few photos with my phone and felt overjoyed that the Summer's Hope had proven itself for the first time.  Apparantly, that steelhead wanted the Summer's Hope and not my Chartruese and Purple, go figure.  I'm just glad that the dry fly steelhead mystery is one I'll never completely solve.

The Summer's Hope Proves Itself

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