Sunday, December 4, 2011

Anticipating the Spring Steelhead Season

Its the beginning of December and I'm really missing spring!  I wanna fish so bad; I wanna feel the take, set the hook, feel the head shake and then battle a steelhead; I wanna be covered in the sweet stickiness of fresh, uncured roe; I wanna drift a slinky, eggs and yarn over cobblestones, float bobbers, and cast my new spey rod with bright flies and I wanna battle big fish!  It's been too long and the fall fishing I've missed because I've been hunting too much!  I know, cry me a river!  

My brother-in-law, Matt, just downloaded these photos and this video, off his camera.  It been almost a year; by our standards he hasn't procrastinated this at all, he could have waited another few years before doing anything with them and he'd still have beat us.  Anyway, it was good memories and exciting to relive, so I thought I'd share it.  
This picture is of a 31.5 inch native buck I quickly released after a good reviving--mouth to mouth is really weird on a fish!  Matt landed a much, much, much bigger native right after this one.  We hit a pod of pigs (big fish for you layman) that afternoon and reveled in the bent rods and smokin reels!

This particular day Matt and I headed for the river; an unplanned lazy day.  No getting up early, no beating people to "the spot", no concerns for anything but a relaxing walk down river and fishing where ever we wanted.  Our goal was to try new water, fish what we have never fished, and try something different, just to see what would happen.  We caught very few fish from new spots, but we did have quite a bit of success; lots more than the other people we ran into on the river.  

It seems we left the car around 11 AM.  We walked slow, talked and stopped often to fish a promising bit of structure, a deep, fast run, or an obscure corner with no trails leading down to it.  We reached our typical water after an hour or more and set up in one of my favorite spots.  I explained the hole to Matt, the guys down river hadn't touched a fish, and turned him loose.  He put on his bobber and jig and landed a 30 inch keeper buck in 2 or 3 casts.  I wanted to throw him in!  He always does this to me!  

To make me feel better and to stop the whining and pouting, he let me have a pictures with his fish.  I looked downstream at the other fisherman to see their reaction.  It was fun to watch the envy flow out of them, but it was so thick and acrid there was a major fish kill for the first 100 yards downstream from their position.  The rest of the river was fine as the river diluted its concentration only stunning the fish below that were unfortunate enough to get caught in its oily currents.  The most disgusting part of the ordeal was when the fisherman took off their waders!  Birds that flew over fell stone dead into the river and along the banks.  It was HORRIBLE!  When we left, after fishing for 30 or 40 minutes they raced for our spot.  I guess they had been there all morning and hadn't touched a fish.  Funny, we only fished for 3 minutes and had already out done them, well Matt had, I was still fishless.  

Another mile of river, a few fishless spots, and I was on the edge of Cole's Run.  Its a great place to fish and I love reliving Cole hooking four steelhead and landing two in minutes.  We landed 8 or 9 fish that day from the same section of river in an hour or two.  The backpack full of fish weighed 60-80 pounds!  We brought a packframe down the next day so we could "pack out" our fish; it was like deer hunting!  Anyway, I finally hooked and landed a nice 22-23 inch keeper.  Not a big one, but a keeper; the best part was Matt and I were tied, one to one.  

We started back up river and stopped on an outside corner I have never caught a fish out of.  The year before we fished this spot and fished it and fished it.  We were so confident it was fishless the kids threw rocks in.  We were sprawled on the gravel bar talking when two guys came up and asked us if they could fish.  We said sure, so they cast out, hooked 3 fish, landed 2 of them, and left.  It was embarrassing.  It was just after that Cole's Run got its name.  

Matt and I started on the lower end.  I hooked a 29.5 inch keeper hen almost immediately.  The next cast was the 31.5 inch native buck with the awesome hooked jaw.  (See the photo at the top).  Matt was losing, I was up 3 to 1.  He put on some drift gear, cast out, asked me what to feel for, because he had never used drift gear before, and hook a fish of mammoth proportions.  No kidding!  I hadn't finished with my explanation of a "heavy-swimming-feeling" and he was hooked up.  The fish was a bruiser and pulled him all over the river.  When I finally tailed it I couldn't get my hand around the fish.  It was SO deep and thick and heavy and strong and BIG!  I guessed it at 34-36 inches.  It's adipose fin was like a sail.  It pulled free at the waters edge and I fought it, hand to fin combat, for a few seconds before it cheated, kicking water up into my face with its massive tail and departed for deeper, darker spots in the river.  We never got a picture, but I can still see its massive "shoulders" above the water and feel its hefty body.  WHAT A FISH!  I was pretty torn up over not getting a picture, but Matt didn't seem to care. 

We fished our way back to where we caught the first fish.  Everyone was gone.  So we started at the bottom of the hole and worked our way up.  I didn't touch another fish.  Matt was still trailing by one, but he pulled a head by 2 before we left.  He was into fish on almost every cast, there for a little bit.  We had worked up to the middle of the hole when we heard someone coming.  It was my mom and dad.  
Matt had just hooked up and I asked him if he could hand the rod over to my mom as she had never landed a steelhead before.  You can watch the epic battle between my mom and her first steelhead.  It was a native hen, so we gently released her, after the pictures.