Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stubborn Love

I awoke in the bed of the truck several times that night. I thought that 36 hours without sleep would have me sleeping like a baby until my alarm woke me before sunrise. I was wrong. I felt wide awake and soon found myself checking the time on my phone. 3 o'clock. Way too early for anything. I felt the truck rock back and forth as Adam tossed and turned in the front seat. He was having the same problem. The chilly temperatures instantaneously made me need to use the bathroom as I exited my sleeping bag and got dressed. It was raining outside and I headed into Walmart to meet the night shift.

We ended up arriving in Pulaski a few hours early with no where to go but McDonalds. Cheap coffee and a few chocolate chip cookies warmed our bodies as we waited for the first sign of light in the parking lot. A few humorous sketches and fly fishing videos fresh off the Internet helped pass the time. A quick check on the river levels revealed a dam release doubling the flow of the river. Any steelheader knows that sort of news can be a good or bad thing. For one, it can trigger a fresh run of fish inspired by the heavy flows or it can mean that the fish were going to be a little confused and disoriented. The day ended up falling in the latter category.

Hoping for some fish movement, we headed to the lower sections of the river and fished a mile of unexplored water that was really inviting. Long stretches of riffles and runs kept us at it all day long despite little to show for our efforts. The river and its fish were stubborn on this particular day despite our success the day before. We were left shaking our heads. However, in one particular run, by some divine intervention, Adam was gifted with a small one that hardly put up a fight.

Some days on the water don't go according to plan. This seems to happen a lot winter steelheading. Faced with a stubborn day, changing water conditions, and incredibly slow fishing we headed down river looking for some fresh fish. We found new water and some good company from Canada but never found the fish. It just wasn't our day. That's steelheading.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Escape

A long, hard, and cold week had me looking for an emergency escape hatch around every corner. Not finding one, I sent Adam a text with a semi-desperate plea for him to stop thinking about carp, and instead think about accompanying me on a trip north for some steelhead. It had been two months since our last hellish trip. With no switch rod, waders full of holes, and zero preparation, I finally pulled the trigger and decided to go. A few freezing days with wet feet would be well worth my first steelhead of the fall.  A suicide run and six hours of driving later, I found myself on my favorite stretch of the Salmon River swinging flies for anything willing to oblige me. I finally found my escape.

Adam struck first hardcore nymphing the head of the run with a single hander. The fish blitzed downstream approaching the backing knot before turning back. When Adam slid the net under the fish, he arched back and let out a roar of approval. A rare display of emotion from a certified "carpologist," who claims he'd rather fish for carp, than slay a tarpon. I don't think he means it. I think he just likes having a bend in his rod. A short time later, he had another fish on the line. This time, he even cracked a smile. He was actually enjoying himself.

I was using my Loop Yellow Line 8124 armed with a Rio Skagit Short and a 2.5/7.5 T11 MOW tip. I experimented with a few different flies before settling on something I tied a few nights before, a miniaturized version of Pat Cohen's Squitruder. I heard he had a few good hookups on it, so I set down and tied two smaller versions with basically the same materials. It looks awesome in the water and I highly recommend checking them out. After making my way through the run without a tug, I added a bead in the loop knot. On the first cast, as my fly made its way into the slack water, I had my big pull. The chromer jumped twice before succumbing to the net. I was pleased to say the least.

From there on out, Adam and I took turns swinging flies. Neither of us really enjoyed destroying our shoulders nymphing single handed, so the swinging became the preferred method for the rest of the afternoon. When it was my turn, I worked my way down to the tailout where I had a good bump but nothing on the end of the line. I re-casted and put a nice belly in the line to speed up the swing. In the exact same spot, a chromer hammered the fly. It ran and cartwheeled through the air and dislodged himself from the hook. I missed my second fish but I had my pull, and that was enough.

On another spot in the river, Adam hooked up with and landed a nice fish on an inside seam.  I repeated the feat a little farther out in the hole. However, mine failed to find the bottom of the net. I didn't mind one bit.

A two month hiatus from the tributaries really tested my resolve as an angler. During this time of year, there is no where else I'd rather be. I felt demoralized after that last trip and had spontaneous urges to go  all the time. However, I remembered that my switch rod was in pieces and my waders leaked. That brought me back down to earth quickly. My last urge couldn't be stopped and as I wrung out my socks on the back of the truck in below freezing weather, I realized I should have been fishing during those two months. I let excuses get in the way and that is not going to happen again.

My feet were lifeless and my legs felt like stumps as I got in the truck. That night at Walmart I bought some extra tall trash bags and rubber bands. I had high aspirations of delaying frost bite as long as possible.

Friday, December 14, 2012

US CarpPro Magazine: Fly Fishing Edition

The premier issue of CarpPro magazine is a fly fishing only edition featuring This River is Wild in two "how to" articles. One is, "Carping the Column," and the other is, "Be Stealthy and Stalk". Please check it out and enjoy the magazine.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Wild One

It is Thanksgiving break and my father asked me to go fishing. His requests usually revolve around the game of golf, which I like, its just that compared to fly fishing, golf sucks. Naturally, I accepted the offer to go fishing and we awoke on a cold morning to head to a local tributary.

This particular tributary lacks a population of trout but every now and then, when the timing is right, it can produce. Most of the trout I have caught from this creek have come from the lake including a few large fish. However, a series of small waterfalls prohibits (some make it) lake run fish from making it really far upstream. Upstream of the falls, I have never caught a trout. Flipping over rocks reveal an utter lack of insect life which probably is a result of poor water quality. Because of this, there aren't many fish to be had, despite the quality of holes and scenery.

As we progressed up the falls, there is only a hundred yards of fishable water before private property signs block the rest of the stream. In a deep pocket along some riffles, I mined up my first trout from this tiny section of stream. Small, skinny, wild, and beautiful it was a sign of life from an otherwise lifeless section. Upstream of that is a nice plunge pool that approaches 12 ft. in depth. In the crystal clear water, I saw another brown hovering. I progressed through a tangle of rhododendron bushes to a rock overhang that juts out into the deep water. It took a few drifts to get the correct depth, but the small brown took and popped off at my feet. I switched over to a sculpin and a 6 wt. and worked the rock overhangs. A larger brown emerged for an inspection but quickly went back into hiding.

We fished a few other small streams where my dad picked up a brook trout all by himself. Other than that, he was content to just watch me fish and take a few pictures. Holidays are all about family, friends, and good times. On this particular outing, it was just nice to be on the water with my dad. The fish were just an added bonus.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Annual Migration

I’ve lived at least a few thousand miles from my hometown for going on four years now, but have returned during each of the past winters to spend the holidays with family and friends.

A midnight suicide run to the tributaries of the great lakes has become a tradition.  Late December isn’t the most productive time on those waterways, but the weekends spent on them with my brother and Adam, and occasional guests like our friends and fathers, result in some potent memories.

I’m drawn back for many reasons, but the scenery, moments and fish captured in the images below will explain better than my words ever could.