|Waiting for an evening rise.|
Got out for an evening session after work with low expectations due to the summer heat we are experiencing. Afternoon/evening water temps have been getting into the high 60's - not the best conditions for bringing hatchery steelhead to the surface on my local ditch, but my motto is "the best time to fish is when you can". It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
Upon arriving at the river, I got out of the steelhead taxi to suit up and realized that I left my waders at home... I then figured maybe today was the day to wet wade, then I remembered that my fishing license was in my waders. I could have chanced it and fished anyway, but just my luck that OSP would decide that today would be a good day to check licenses on random Asians.
I drove back to the house and grabbed my waders and was back at the river in about 20 minutes - nice to have a homewater so close by where there is a chance to get steelhead to come to the surface.
I was armed with a couple new items to test out; a brand new Cabela's TLr 10' 7wt (on sale for $59.95! A gift from my dear wife, "just because") and my latest gold wang modeled after my friend Rick Fielder's skater. Rick showed me the appeal of gold this past weekend when he hooked into a nice buck and also had another steelhead clamp down hard enough on the fly on the grab to smash in the gap of the hook and bend the shank sideways as well.
|Newest toy from Cabela's - $59.95 of pure joy...|
|Rick Fielder's gold skater, note the bomber hook that got the gap smashed in by Mr. Steel|
|My version of gold|
Sun was still on the water and I was on river right, so I walked to some new water that I had never fished before. As I waded into this little run, I was intrigued by the structure and depth of the water. It was also nice to be in shade so I could stay cool in the heat, maybe if I felt good, the steelhead felt good in there too.
As I got about halfway down this new found run, I noted some bottom structure causing two breaks in the current with a sandwich of calmer water between them. My single hander and Ambush line were the perfect medicine in these tight quarters. I cast just past the mid stream break and as the flashy gold skater came through the chop, the broadside olive back of a steelhead suddenly appeared as it slashed at the fly. I kept twitching and felt nothing so I let the fly settle to the dangle.
I tried a tiny #10 yellow stimuwaker on the comeback - zip, then a black bodied McMillan Steelhead Caddis-riffle hitched - 0, then a #2 Yogi - nada, then a midnight special - nope. Back to the gold wang - still got a goose egg so I just continued down through the run and drew a blank. I was still delighted to have discovered new water in my backyard, more options for future trips, and a nice little spot that seems to rarely get fished.
I also drew a blank in the next couple runs but I enjoyed the rhythm and feel of my new rod and I was also encouraged by raising a steelhead on the gold wang.
I had about 20 minutes of daylight left when I hit the last run for the evening. By this time, an annoying breeze kicked up that was blowing diagonally towards me from the side. This made my casts collapse, even as I used the short fighting butt to turn the single hand rod into a mini switch to help with cack handed single speys.
I fished over sections of the run that held promise in the past, but no one answered doors when I knocked. As I neared the bottom of this run, my hopes just about ran out with the annoying side wind and low light level that basically left me fishing blind. Not even hardy twitches on the waker helped me locate it.
I decided to make the obligatory last cast. There was a brief lull in the breeze and my line went out somewhat straight into the darkness. I blindly twitched my fly as I would be preparing to reel up to get home. Near the end of the swing, I heard an explosion and my line instantly came tight with fly line peeling out of my vintage SA System 8 (Hardy Marquis). As I idly joked with myself "I think that's a steelhead", a 10-12lb form leaped from the water and landed with a splash.
As I reeled to recover line, I continued to feel weight, but my line stopped. I pulled back and no give or pull from the steelhead. I played out some slack and still nothing. I figured my steelhead must be tangled in a rock or log or got off and left my line caught up on some unseen object.
It turned out to be the latter. I kept jerking on my line and it came free with my fly still attached. There was some slight fraying on the tippet, but no other damage aside from my hook needing to be sharpened. I reeled up and headed for the car with a great sense of fulfillment with the surface encounters I was blessed with under less than ideal conditions. I glanced at my watch and was reminded that the long days of summer are slowly starting to get shorter as it was nearly full dark by 8:45pm. The glory days of fall are around the corner, yet at my age, I don't want to rush time and am reminded to treasure the present.
I suppose I am a bit superstitious and assume certain pieces of equipment have more mojo than others. Raising two steelhead and solidly hooking one of them while using my brand new Cabela's TLr single hander for the first time does draw that tendency in me to think that some inanimate object can have some magical power to lead me to steelhead. I even thought of the reel I was using and realized that for some reason, while using it, I have raised/hooked/landed a disproportinate number of steelhead relative to some of my other reels, and I don't even use it constantly - mojo?? I guess a guy can tend to think in weird directions when steelhead encountered are few and far between.