We had been fishing different areas and the weather was supposed to be a wintery mix on the raw side so all of us headed to the 2A Bridge in the morning. It was close by and if it was slow we could head back for an early lunch then fish hard during the afternoon.
Dave and Joe stayed near the bridge on the South side of the river, and my Dad walked just above the old abutment on that same side so he could fish from the tip of the island downstream. I stayed on the North side, started above the abutment and began working my way down the river with the same tube fly crayfish that had brought me luck all week.
Even though the guides weren’t icing up, it felt like the coldest day of the trip because the wind combined with the on and off spattering of rain made it raw outside. Things started off a little tough trying to do an offhand spey cast into the wind, so I stuck with a short amount of line which could be fished effectively.
I kept looking back upstream towards my Dad and downstream towards Joe and Dave to see if any of them had hooked up, but no such luck. I fished through the run where I was located and stopped shy of the tailout since the wind and the tree branches had my number. No takes but I was happy to get out of the water and walk downstream to fish below the 2A Bridge. It wasn’t a long walk but it did help get the blood moving, plus nothing like the excitement of fishing water that no one has fished yet.
I started off with short casts and began to work out more line after each swing like I usually do. My line was out beyond the heavy riffles in front of me and the rest was out in the slow moving seam below the bridge abutment. Just as the line would start to form a belly I would through in a big mend and made sure it moved the fly a couple of inches. This happened about three to four times each casts and sometimes after the mend settled I would make two or three short strips of line to keep the crayfish “alive.”
Things were little slow for everybody and Joe shouted over to me, “Stir them up Chipper!!” So I shouted back, “Alright, I’ll do my best!!” On the next cast, when I started getting closer to the “funnel,” I felt a bump out in the slack water after the initial mend. I let the loop go but there wasn’t anything on the other end of the line. I made the same cast and mend, but tried to keep the line slightly tighter. I felt a bump, held onto the line for some reason, felt another bump and set the hook as I released the loop. Fish on and I hollered over to Joe, “You told me to stir them up, so here you go!!” He laughed and I fought the small brownie over to shore and released her.
I went back to where I first hopped in and started to work the run again with the same tube fly. I stepped down river a little quicker to get closer to the “funnel.” “There has to be steelhead down there,” I told myself. Right in the same spot where I hooked the female brown, the line got slightly heavy so I set the hook and felt some good head shakes. Sweet!! This time it was a male brownie slightly bigger than the female I had caught about 10 minutes ago.
After releasing him I changed my tippet to be safe and put the same crayfish tube fly on the end of the line. There was about a half hour before lunch so I figured I would stick with the same fly…..its working might as well stick with it.
Again I hopped in where I started and began stepping down the run. This time there wasn’t any bumps, but I made a few extra casts to make sure. Nothing happened so I took a few more steps downstream to swing the fly through the sweet spot. Second cast and swing through the “funnel,” the line got ripped out of my hands just as the crayfish started to swing. Set the hook to the side and up comes flying a decent sized steelhead and I shouted over to Joe, “There’s a steelhead baby!!” BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ he ran me all the way down to my backing and turned around at the tailout so I worked him back upstream. He rolled and thrashed his head a few times, but he was tired so it was easy to lead him to shore.
When I landed him I noticed a pretty nasty lamprey wound on his side, but other than that he was one of the brighter fish I had landed all week. I took a few quick pictures, revived him, and he splashed away in to the depths of the river. It was close enough to lunch time so I decided to get my Dad’s attention so we could meet back at the truck. It’s always nice to end on a good note.
When we finished lunch and had all of our clothes dried a little, Dad and I decided to head back to Pineville. Joe and Dave headed back up to the LFZ to see if they would have the same action they had the other day.
There were a few trucks in the lot at Pineville but it wasn’t crowded at all. We decided to head upriver above the island which was a good thing because there weren’t any tracks in the fresh snow. Cool!! The only people that fished where we were going were those in drift boats.
There was a driftboat with a few anglers working part of the run, but there was enough room for my Dad to fish the tailout, and I had room at the top of the run. I wasn’t expecting too much to happen since it remained pretty raw outside, but you never know when it comes to Steelhead fishing. I worked the fast water at the head of the run to give the guys in the driftboat ample room and as they moved down, so did I. Nothing happened for a little while, but as the driftboat got into the tailout below my dad, one of the guys hooked up and I saw a pretty big steelhead jump out of the water. I watched them fight it and after a couple of minutes they had it in the net and in the boat. They pulled anchor and headed to the ramp and the run was ours for the next hour and a half.
I kept working downstream and as I got to the slower water, where I had a few taps yesterday, I felt a soft tug. I let the loop go and when the line came tight there wasn’t any weight on the end. Oh well, but it did get me excited and made me focus a little more on what I was doing. I made two more casts after stepping downstream and the same thing happened….what’s going on? Maybe its little fish nipping at it…..I don’t know. I made another cast after stepping down, the line had good tension, and the fly was swinging nicely. During the last quarter of the swing, I felt the same thing and let the loop go. I felt the weight at the end of the line, set the hook and the fish was on, or so I thought. I saw the head of a Steelhead come up to the surface, shake its head, turn to head into the middle of the stream and the hook came free. Damn!! I didn’t set the hook hard enough, but maybe the hook was dull. Pulled in my line and sure enough, the hook was a little on the dull side. “You dummy,” I said to myself, “You should have changed the hook at lunch.”
I cut that hook off, tied on a new “sticky” sharp hook, and hoped I might be blessed with another tug. I took a couple of steps upstream to swing through that water again. I had another very light tug, but nothing was on the other end.
While I was fishing, I was watching my Dad the whole time. We were both cussing the wind a little, since it made spey casting off the opposite shoulder quite tough. We both did our best and layed out a few nice casts. Nothing happened the rest of the afternoon so when another drift boat came through we made a few casts then decided to head back to the room and take a nice, hot shower before dinner.
What a great day even though the conditions were tough. 2 Brownies and 1 Steelhead landed, 1 steelhead lost, and missed 3 other takes. Who says fish won’t move for a fly in 34 degree water.