Friday, June 10, 2011

Steelhead in Solitude

Early this winter I fortunately found a weekend to visit my grandmother who just so happens to live within minutes of some good steelhead water.  Funny how the coincidences just happen to pile up sometimes.  :)

This particular stretch of water is a very popular early spring fishing destination when the water temps begin to warm after the frigid winter.  But for now the temps haven't gotten cold enough yet to push the fish back down river into the warmer deep pools.

In the spring a typical day starts well before sunrise as you and whatever posse might be down there with you get to the most likely honey hole and lock it down with sheer force of fishing combat tactics.  The idea is to physically occupy all the good fishing spots in the hole and hopefully prevent any other anglers from encroaching.    

This is an early winter weekend, however, and there is not another angler in sight as I drive up and down the river.  After a light rain last week the flows are ideal for wade fishing and the water has cleared.  I have my choice of the best holes and furthermore the best spots in each hole.  If any fish have come up I will have a decent chance to catch them.   

I realize the irony of the fact that I desire solitude yet I am one of the masses that actually help to evaporate that solitude.  But I am fisherman and solitude, like like old Walter, is just one of those things to pine for.  

All told I end up hooking 3 large B-run steelhead landing only one.  While the temps where cold the fish fought hard and were large.  But without a doubt the best part was not seeing another angler while I was fishing.

An early winter steel head caught without another angler in sight

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Best Week of Fishing

It seems like each good day of fishing rivals my "best day" of fishing ever.  I can't rightly say what my single best day of fishing was, but I do have some extremely memorable days on the water tickling the lips of some of my finned friends.  Now if you were to ask me what my best week of fishing was I will definitely have an answer for you....

Royce in the Small Pool.
In the fall of 2007, my Dad, his buddy Royce, and myself made the journey to British Columbia to fish for salmon.  For the whole week the water conditions were perfect as the water was low, clear, and absolutely loaded with Chinook salmon!  That first night we found a small pool that was a holding ground for moving fish.  Below that pool was a larger one that held literally dozens of big fish.  We were throwing sinktips with bunny leeches and egg sucking leeches and getting bit in a big way!  We each had lots of hookups, but as we would learn there was a big difference between hooking and landing these monsters.  Nonetheless, for the most part after we found this hole we spent most of the time hooked up.

Eric Fighting a Tough Springer
When fighting chinook salmon the odds are stacked against the angler especially when using lighter fly tackle.  To begin with, the fish is a powerhouse built of rigid muscle upon rigid muscle so any illusion of control is immediately gone upon hookup.  Next, they have great endurance and use it effectively in combination with their sheer weight.  Due to the nature of fly fishing, the gear is typically lighter with 10wt rods and 15# line, which ultimately limits the amount of force an angler can put on a fish and therefore determines how long the fight will be. The biggest factor that works in the anglers advantage is the fact that Mr. Chinook has had to swim upstream a long ways to get where he is at and doesn't want to bolt back downstream.  He is typically content to stay right the hell where he is at!  After the initial struggle the fight boils down to a match of tug of war where every inch is gained and lost multiple times.  The point at which the fish comes to either the net or the bank is filled will equal trepidation as when the fish is initially hooked.

Early Morning Fight
About halfway through the 2nd day of sticking kings at will we understood this behavior thoroughly.  Each fish was not measured in inches or pounds, but rather in minutes it took to land the S.O.B.  10 minutes is a long time to fight a fish and 20 minutes is an eternity.  Fortunately, it is an eternity in bliss because there is nothing quite like the relentless pull of a powerful king.  By the end of the 2nd day the trip was already a success as we had already fought dozens of kings and while landing fewer had landed some BIG fish. 

We took a break from the kings on the 3rd day and went after a whole other adversary in the chum salmon.  Chums are the toughest pound for pound fighter in the salmon world, but in some cases being half the size the kings are slightly easier to deal with....sometimes.  I raved about chums in blog entry Pack of Chums.  Needless to say, our sore arms didn't get much of a break. 

Eric and Royce Mid Fight Break
Ever the gluttons for punishment, on the 4th day we went back to our king run and picked up right where we left off.  Somewhere in the middle of the 2nd day I decided to try indicator fishing for the kings since they were slotted up so nicely in the run.  I continued using this method and my hookup rate shot up even higher.  It's my understanding that in the ocean chinook tend to hang out along drop offs waiting for food (octopus, shrimp, etc) to come to them via the ocean currents.  For this reason, I believe a dead drifted pattern beneath an indicator is an incredibly effective method for getting bit. 

Ted and a Battleship
The 4th day was much like the 2nd except we knew exactly what we were in for.  Hookup, a bit of thrashing, a long fight, a bit more thrashing up to the net, a quick glory pic, and then start the process all over again.  Between the three of us at least one of us was hooked up almost the entire day.  One guy had to man the net and the other was usually in the process of trying to get hooked up again.  Life was good!

Eric and a Monster
The 5th and last day was just a morning session as we had to get back on the road to catch a flight.  Nothing had changed from the previous days, however, and it was game on yet again.  The only difference was that we were all tired, sore, and content from a week of hard yet awesome fishing.  We each caught a couple and were happy to hook them and let them get off unless they were an absolute monster.  It was as fitting an end as any to the best week of fishing I have ever had.  Best week of fishing without a doubt. 

Ted and One of the Biggest Fish of the Trip