Search This Blog

Sunday, December 9, 2018

December Dry Fly Steelhead

Dry Fly Steelhead in December, a first!  Photo by Todd Hirano
I have so much fun with pursuing steelhead on the surface that I have a hard time putting my surface flies away when winter steelhead season comes.  I generally switch gears to subsurface fishing with big irons swung on a dry line by the time December 1 arrives.  This is also when many winter steelhead rivers open for the season.

By this time, I generally stop fishing my homewater as winter rainstorms typically keep the middle fork Willamette running high and dirty.  This year has been an unusual exception.   Dry conditions have allowed my local ditch to stay at summer levels, so of course,  I have continued to fish it with summer methods, despite the cooler water.   Obviously, I am not always in touch with reality, but it's too late to change.

On this day (Sunday,  December 9, 2018), I was able to negotiate an extra day of fishing since my normal friday fishing day was cut short.  To make appearances of being a decent husband,  I came home early from fishing on Friday to drag the brand new 500lb hot tub my wife purchased from the garage where it was delivered,  to the back of the house where project management wanted it.  I felt like I earned some extra credit.

I elected to hit a coastal drainage in pursuit of winter steelhead like normal people do.  I fished hard from about 8:30am til about 2pm.  I readily got back into the flow of swinging my favorite Winter's Hopes on a full floating Beaulah Aerohead cast with my vintage Sage 7136.  I had an enjoyable time fishing through the overcast and light drizzles through the day.

By early afternoon, I had not received any chrome feedback so my mind wandered towards heading back towards home and trying for one last dry fly steelhead for the year on my homewater.  At the end of the last run, my line drew tight and the lively pulse of a fish was felt. Just as I thought that my plans to head homeward was being joyfully interrupted, I realized that my fishy encounter was smaller in scale than hoped for.  I stripped in the scrappy fighter and found it to be a perfect male cutthroat of about 15 inches. A respectable prize, but when a guy's mind runs on one track, expectations can become distorted.

After releasing  the hardy cutthroat, my focus returned to getting in some time on familiar runs close to home.  I made the drive back through overcast and intermittent drizzles.  As I rounded the bend to a favorite run,  I noticed a drift boat with gear fisherman anchored low in the water that I typically fish through.   I wondered "what could those guys be thinking fishing here today?"  Then I thought of what those gear guys might be thinking about a fly angler fishing through there in hopes of getting a steelhead on a surface fly today..

I figured to start fishing at the top of the run in spite the unexpected company on this unlikely day.  As I set up and began walking to the top of the run, the gear guys pulled anchor and of course,  they also fished through the lower run that I intended to fish as well.  I guess solitude is not a guarantee, even when one might assume folks would be focussing their attention elsewhere so late in the season.

I fished through until my swings were overlapping the area where my gear chucking friends were achored.  With less than 30 minutes left before dark,  I left for the lower run, never mind that the gear boat just fished through.  I was fishing the my usual foam waker with a couple tweaks:  two forward facing indicator posts - one black and one white,  tied on a #4 gamakatsu octopus hook.

Purple and Black "Bivisiwang" tied on #4 Gamakatsu Octopus hook.  Photo by Todd Hirano
With the overcast and silvery/greyish glare on the water, the black post on my fly showed up best.  As I approached the bottom of the run, I could only occasionally pick out the black post of my fly in the rapidly dimming light.  With the cooler water,  I fished at a slower pace and strived for swings that lingered over likely water longer.  I was near the lower limit of the run when I saw and heard a splash in the distance and then I  felt a pull.  I realized that I raised a fish, but was it a steelhead and would it come back after feeling resistance?  The next cast went out cleanly and as I desperately sought to spot my fly in the near darkness, I faintly saw and heard another splashy rise in the same area.  I didn't feel any resistance as I continued to gently twitch my fly into the dangle.  I continued to be hopeful for the opportunity to confirm the identity of the rising fish and also that it might be the December dry fly steelhead I was after.

The third cast to this fish went out cleanly as my vintage Sage 7136 and Beaulah Aerohead did their job in executing a smooth double spey.  I twitched my waker through the swing and in the familiar location,  the same rise came, this time followed by solid resistance.   I instinctively swept the rod towards the bank and came tight to something that was definitely more substantial than the cutthroat I hooked a couple hours ago.  The creature fought doggedly and powerfully. It had enough authority to be immovable at times, but it eventually succumbed to steady side pressure and when it came closer to the bank, I was able to positively identify it as a steelhead. I was eventually able to pull the steelhead to the bank and contained it by kneeling down in the river to keep the steelhead between me and the bank as I took photos. (Water temp: 45.3 degrees)

What a unique surface steelhead season it has been!  I have gotten steelhead on the surface every month since May.  I am truly blessed by God beyond mere existence,  but blessed in exuberant abundance!

Bivisiwang cannot be seen as it is hooked in the tongue of this December Buck.  Tying my waker on the Gami Octopus hook proves to hold steelhead solidly.  Todd Hirano photo.

1 comment:

  1. Great story, Todd. Looking forward to your January catch.