It seemed like there were some fish to play with around 2A bridge area so we all agreed to head back there again for the morning. Dad and I both stayed on the north side of the river, except he headed to the tailout of the Compactor hole and I started just above the old abutment.
I could see Joe and Dave under the bridge and just below the bridge, but I didn’t see them hook anything. About an hour had passed and Dad came walking down the trail and said he was going across the bridge to fish the south side and work his way down to the island where Joe and Dave were now fishing. I told him I got one brownie about 15”-16” long just after stepping into the water. She was laying in the slack water right at the abutment and took the crayfish tube fly. It was a very cold morning and the guides were icing up so I took a short walk to fish below the 2A Bridge. That “funnel” was calling me.
I got below the bridge, cracked the ice out of the guides, checked my knots and tippet, and gave the hook a touch up with a honing stone…..sticky sharp and ready to go to work. Slowly stepped off the shore and worked the close water with a few short casts. No taker so I stepped out a little further into the river to get a little room between myself and a few branches. Continued working the line out until I had about 50ft of line to swing with….and then step, cast, swing, and repeat. As I started getting closer to the “funnel” I felt very positive that something was going to happen even though it was a cold morning.
“Drop the loop, idiot, drop the loop, it’s going to happen,” I kept telling myself. Sometimes it happens, most times it doesn’t, but it’s good to trust your instincts/feelings and be ready. I finally got down to the “funnel,” made a decent cast and adjusted it with a small mend and kept at the ready. Right when the crayfish tube fly got into the sweet spot, the loop was ripped out of my hands. I felt two or three heavy head shakes, and a solid steelhead buck goes airborne like a mini dolphin. Line is flying off the reel like crazy as I’m holding my ground and I’m down to my backing in a heartbeat. The buck gets to the tailout, stops, turns around and I start working him back upstream. He rose to the top, boiled and thrashed around on the surface a few times, then he started coming closer.
BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ he tears off on another run and is heading straight for the narrow channel on the south side of the island below. He turns around thrashes and rolls some more and I work him back over to my side of the river. As soon as he feels the stones on his belly he tears off on another run across stream……keep wearing yourself out big boy. I work him back to my side again and he holds in front of me, shakes his head a few times, tries to run but he is exhausted. I lead him over to shore and see the crayfish tube fly lodged solidly in the corner of his jaw. Took a few quick pics, popped the hook out, revived him for a little while and he took off with a few quick thrusts of his tail. I should have taped his length and girth, the girth especially. Judging by my rod he was around 26” inches long and a very deep bodied buck that I guessed around 9lbs – 10lbs.
Dad, Joe, and Dave were heading back upstream from down below just as I released him so I waved to them and motioned that I was ready for lunch. They were ready too, so we all went back at the room to warm up, have lunch, and see what NFL matchups were in store for the afternoon.
After lunch, Dave and Joe decided to head up to the Upper Fly Zone to see if there was room to fish. I talked my dad into heading up to Pineville so I could show him some other good spey water. There were a few anglers around the bridge on the north side where I had good luck during the last trip. He made a few casts, but didn’t like where he was and he reeled in and headed off downstream in search of fresh water. He was also trying the same polyleader I had been using and wanted a little more room to cast and get used to the extra weight on the end of the fly line.
I went across the bridge to fish above it on the south side of the river since there wasn’t anybody over there. I worked my way down to the bridge and below it a short ways, but got low holed by a two different groups of people. I didn’t mind too much since Mother Nature was pelting us with a mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. It gave me an excuse to cross back over the bridge and fish the North side for an hour before heading back to the truck.
As I was fishing a gentleman came up the trail from down below and asked me if that was my Dad down below. I said, “Yes, that’s my pop.” He said,” Your dad is pretty happy he just got his first steelhead on the spey rod.” “Awesome,” I replied, “that will make his week!” I fished for another half hour or so and headed down the trail to find my Dad.
It was snowing pretty steady by this time, but he was all smiles inside his comfy balaclava, and gave me the thumbs up. I asked him the usual questions; how big was it? Male or Female? What fly? Where were you fishing? Where did it take? Did it yank the hell out of it or suck it in?
He said there were a few other guys around so he asked if he could hop in just above them and they obliged. After a short while a few of them left and it was just him and one other gentleman that was downstream of us. Dad said it was a female and she took the Purple Mahogan I had given him before the trip. He showed me where he was fishing and said his cast wasn’t too far out. The fly drifted a little ways and just started to swing when he felt a take so he dropped the loop, set the hook and the fight was on. He said it didn’t run too far and stayed in front of him while he fought it to shore. Way to go Pop!! Feels darn good on the long rod doesn’t it? “Hell yeah,” he said and we hit the trail and headed back to the truck.
When we got back to the room Joe and Dave said the UFZ was too crowded so they went to the Lower Fly Zone where they found a good amount of river to fish. They both had gotten into a few fish and each landed some steel. They were happy campers and new where they were going tomorrow morning. This time they were going to take a net!!