Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Teflon Surface Steelhead
Today, July 3, was an easy going day where I slept in, tied some flies (Celestial Skaters) and helped with just a bit of housework before getting out for a pleasant afternoon/evening of fishing from the bank on my local flow. I got on the water by about 4pm and my game plan was to stay on river left to stay in the shade until evening approached when I could switch over to runs on river right.
I started off at a favorite run and started at the very top and worked all the way down until this big glide forms a tailout above an island. As I got lower in this run, the afternoon shadows lengthened across the river and the old anticipation came back as I recalled years past when I consistently found steelhead scattered about this flat. In this kind of water, my waker is plainly visible, and likewise the rise of a steelhead is unmistakable, with the smooth flow breaking into mayhem when the bulge of water comes and the fly disappears in the next instant. Those old images replayed in my mind, but by the time I got to the bottom of the run, reality set in that I have not risen a steelhead in this water for the past several years. I have wondered why this stretch of perfect skating water could provide incredible surface fishing one year and then never again since.
I got in my car and drove across the river to fish another favorite run. The low angle of the late evening sun was now shining directly towards me as it started set behind the tree tops on the opposite bank. I held up my hand to block the glare from my eyes so I could track the silhouette of my fly's namesake "indicater post" during it's cross stream path on each swing.
I would occasionally lose visual contact with my fly as it tracked through choppy currents in the low light conditions and blinding glare, but I managed to monitor the general location of my waker as I caught occasional glimpses of it's vertically mounted anatomical feature.
I fished through the run anticipating surface grabs in all the likely holds, but no players made an appearance during this session. I wondered if my local hatchery subjects would begin occupying their typical stations in multiple places in this run as the season progresses.
As dusk approached, I considered calling it a day but I impulsively decided to hit one last spot to fish into evening's darkness. At the top of this short run, I have leaning branches at my left shoulder so I began with miniature double speys. As I worked my Scandi head plus 7 strips of running line out, I began stepping down. The sun was behind the treeline on the opposite bank by now and I was enjoying the soft glow of evening. In the soft light, my waker silhouetted nicely against the mirrored surface of this quiet glide.
As I worked my way down, I was full of anticipation as I made swings along a beautiful seam that led to a soft cushion above the tailout.
As I negotiated around a leaning branch, my casts began reaching the soft cushion.
As I watched my fly coming into the fishy zone, I realized that I had chosen an ideal run to fish at last light. I just felt like I was in the right place at the right time.
My senses were full of expectation as I made my last few swings of the day. I watched my fly coming through the final quarter of a swing and just knew that if a steelhead was going to come up to eat my freshly tied Celestial Skater, this is where it would happen. .
Suddenly, the rise came like a miniature parting of the Red Sea as my waker disappeared into the abyss of dark water. I simply waited and felt solid weight pulling in the next instant. My vintage Hardy began playing out line with that classic English growl. My heart probably skipped a few beats as I began sweeping my rod towards the bank. Just as I felt the power of the steelhead, the hook pulled out.
I stood there dumbfounded as I yelled out "dang" to no one in particular. I made my last few casts by the time dusk set in and concluded that the steelhead I briefly encountered felt the hook and didn't have any company.
Some rises just stand out in my memory and the encounter just described is one that will replay in the gray matter for a while. It is moments like this that keeps me in hot pursuit of the next rise.
This summer has been a strange season thus far. That is, strange in a good way. Since getting my first surface steelhead for the season on June 23, I have been raising steelhead to the surface on most of my outings since then. This is the first year that I have encountered my local hatchery brats coming to the top so consistently this "early" in the season.
Unfortunately, the steelhead I have risen have been one timers - one rise and no more comebacks. Out of these risers, I had one that started to pull line from my Perfect, then got off and on a couple others, I felt a brief pull after the rise with no hook up. It's as if these steelhead are made of Teflon because I can't get them to stick!