Saturday, October 10, 2009

11/28/08 Good to Be Back

The trip started off with all of us meeting at the Pennsburg Diner for Breakfast before hopping on the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike to head north to Pulaski. Before dad and I arrived at the diner, Dave had put one of his stoneflies on the table and the waitress completely freaked out and almost spilled the pot of coffee. She came over to see what we wanted and we all had a good laugh.

With our bellies full, we hit the highway (2 vehicles) and set the cruise control…….destination Pulaski, NY……the land of steel, snow and the beautiful Salmon River. During the ride we cracked jokes through our walkie-talkies, played funny music, burped, farted and all the other wonderful things that start off a great fishing trip. We didn’t see any deer during the ride but we did see a few Turkeys when we got around the Cortland area.

The trip went fine and was the usual 5hrs and we arrived in Pulaski around 11:30. Perfect!! Enough time to check in at Whitakers, get unloaded, grab lunch at Arby’s, gear up, and hit the river for an afternoon of fishing. Dave and Joe made their way to the Upper Fly Zone to see if they could find some room in one of their favorite spots. My father and I decided to head to 2A bridge area since it was close and we know the area well. We walked up to the Compactor Hole in search of a willing player that would come and grab a swung fly.

I started off first at the head of the Compactor on the south side of the river. I was rigged with a 10ft polyleader that sinks 4.9 ips, a 3ft long 12lb tippet of fluoro connected to a Purple Mahogan spey fly that did well for me during a previous trip. While my dad rigged his spey rod I took it slow to try to get into a good casting rhythm for the week. About halfway down the run I felt a light pluck where I have had takes before, but I struck too soon and never let the loop go, so it wasn’t to be.

Dad had started working the run with a 13’-0” mono/fluoro leader, 12lb tippet with a purple Swarn-A-Bugger on the business end. He was doing well with his casting and swinging while I worked down to the tailout. I returned to the top of the run, and on my way I jokingly asked him, “How many did you get?” He said none, but he had a pluck shortly after he started. Cool! He didn’t think it was a fish, so I reminded him of the water temp (34), and that what he felt was probably a steely or brown flaring out his gills, trying to suck in the fly. Sometimes they crush it, other times they lazily move for it and don’t overtake the fly. That’s why it’s good to hold a loop and let it go when you feel those “plucks.” It’s tough for them to suck in 40ft-80ft of line that is tight due to current and tension.

I began to work down through the run again and two driftboats anchored up on both sides of the Compactor Hole. I fished down as far as I could, then decided to talk to the guys in the driftboat on our bank. I asked them if they had any luck plugging and they said they got one which I saw in the boat. I also noticed some trout beads so I shot the shit with him about them, rigging, how the steelies shy away from sacs and take the beads, yada, yada, yada……

After our conversation, I headed downstream and told my dad I was going down river to fish the run at the old trestle, just above 2A Bridge. Switched the fly to a dark minnow like tube fly and began to step down the run. Used it for a little while, but I wasn’t feeling it with that fly so I changed to a black and blue Boss, which is very similar to a Comet. Kept moving down the run slowly since it was starting to get dark and this was going to be the last spot of the evening. Just above the abutment in the slow water (south side) the line swing until it was directly below me, so I let it dangle a few seconds. Just as I began to lift the rod and start the next cast, the line came tight and the rod started bucking as a steely or brownie rolled on the surface and spit out the fly. I figured that was it for the evening so I reeled in and met my dad back at the truck. He didn’t get any more takes, but it was a nice afternoon of fishing. It was time to see how Joe and Dave did, get some dinner, and make a game plan for tomorrow.

11/29/08 Compactor Spey & Freshwater Lobster?

We all started at the 2A Bridge area. Dad and I decided to head up to the Upper Compactor (north side) so I could show him some more good water to swing. Joe and Dave stayed down around the bridge.

Dad started off close to shore while I waded out on a rock reef so we could essentially cover a large swath of water without being too close to each other. As he worked his way downstream with a little prodding from me, I slid closer to shore and fished the water he just went through. We each played around with a few different flies and covered some of the water twice, but no takers.

Dad wanted to work the water a third time so I told him I was heading downstream to fish the tailout of the Compactor hole. Dave and Joe fished south side the Compactor while we were upstream, but they didn’t have any luck. I tied on a different fly which was one I used last year and this year, but still hadn’t hooked anything with it. I figured why not, just go for it. It was a size one Spey fly with red GP crest for a tail, rear body of orange floss, front body of black dubbing, black spey hackle with a purple throat, and strips of black goose for the Spey/Dee wings.

The sun was bright, felt great, and the fly looked good while swimming it at my feet. Worked some line out until I felt comfortable and started the spey dance…step, cast, swing, repeat. Got below a bunch of annoying tree branches and stripped out line to cover a little more water since the swing was smooth and at a nice speed. There was good tension in the line too. Made a few more casts and at the end of one of the swings, just before the straight down dangle, I felt a bump. I was able to overcome the urge to strike and let the loop go since I was muttering it to myself the entire time. The loop went out, line came tight and I lifted the rod towards my shore to set the hook. The fish came up and rolled a few times but I couldn’t tell if it was a brownie or a steelie so I kept a nice deep bend in the rod.

It didn’t make any runs and just shook its head as it sulked so I figured it was a brownie. Tired it out pretty quickly and saw it was a nice fat bellied female brown and the hook was right in the corner of the jaw. Just as I was about to land her, my Dad showed up and I asked him if he had a camera because this was the biggest brown I had ever landed (not huge for SR standards though). He said, “No.” I then picked her up out of the water to get a feel for her weight and size and noticed she was dropping eggs so I quickly popped out the barbless hook, revived her and let her go back to where she came from. Judging from my rod handle she was about 26” long and felt like a fat, egg laiden 7-8 lbs. Sweet!! That made my day and if anything else happened, it would be icing on the cake.

Dad and I were a little chilled so we decided walk downstream and fish the run at the old abutment above 2A Bridge, and then we could head in for lunch. I started at the fast water and Dad started just below me. He worked his way down through and hopped out just below the abutment on the north side to head back to the truck. I followed him and made a few more casts before heading to the truck.

When I started at the top of the run I had put on a Balmoral Dee fly with Argus wings to try a classic Dee fly for a change of pace. I was right at the upstream side of the old abutment and the fly was just starting to dangle when I felt a harder take. Let the loop go, set the hook and up came a small steelhead flying through the air. She pulled on the line pretty good but wasn’t big enough to take any drag. After a short battle she came to shore and I released all 18”-20” of her. It was pretty neat to get steelhead on a fly that was tied new from an 80+ year old pattern. All it missed was the silk gut eye……maybe next time.

Went back to the room for lunch and got the goodies out so we could all make sandwiches. Dad and I finished our bite to eat, but Joe and Dave never showed up. We figured they must have gotten into some fish so they skipped lunch. We were right!! When we got back to 2A Bridge Joe and Dave were where we left them, and said they hit a bunch of steel a little while after we left for lunch.

After parking, Dad decided to head up to the tailout of the Compactor Hole while I went back to where I was before lunch. Worked down through the run once with no luck and at about the same time I was walking back up, a few other fly fisherman showed up across the river. They fished around the abutment on the south side of the river dead drifting flies. One of the guys hooked up to a brownie rather quickly and was quite excited that he hooked something. His buddy hollered up to him and waded upstream to give a hand landing the fish. He reached behind his back and pulled out a net that was sized for wild brookies. There was a gentleman in a driftboat at the pullout next to me and we just looked at each other and laughed. Maybe half of the brownie fit in the net and it wasn’t even twenty inches long!! I guess the laugh was on me though because each of those guys hooked a few more browns and steelies as I worked down the run. It sure was fun to watch!!

Since I didn’t have any takers above the bridge I decided to head below the bridge and give it a try. Joe and Dave were across from me and hadn’t hooked much since we returned from lunch. That little pod they hit around noon must have slid upriver to the abutment which explains some of the hookups I saw.

I put on a new length of 12lb tippet and decided to try a crayfish tube fly I tied for this trip. Mostly made of hen pheasant feathers, I figured it would be something different the fish probably hadn’t seen. Plus, there is ton of crayfish in the river so they have most likely crossed paths with a few naturals on their migration upriver.

Worked my way into a nice little groove of casting out into the slower water. I had to make a few twitches and mends to keep the fly moving while holding the rod and line above the fast current right in front of me. As the line got about 55 degrees below me, the current near shore would “grab” the line, and it would finish with a nice even swing with barely any belly. Kept stepping down the run working water to get to a spot in the run where two different currents met and formed a nice little underwater funnel.

The first cast to fish this spot layed out nice and straight about 35 degrees downstream. Held the line off the water for a second or two and the current did the rest of the work without the need for any mending. The tension of the line was just right in my fingers and as the crayfish tube was working its magic, it got to the funnel and I felt a nice hard grab. I set the hook and released the line at the same time….whoops. The fish was on and I saw a nice silver side and bright white belly come up and roll, then the line and fly came shooting back towards me……man….that was cool….the crayfish worked. I will be trying that fly again tomorrow for sure.

Dad didn’t get into anything up above and worked the run below the 2A Bridge with no luck. Joe and Dave hooked into a couple brownies, but that was about it for the evening. It was around 4:00 so we all decided to head back to the room for a warm shower before heading out for dinner.

11/30/08 Crawfish on the Menu

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!!

12/1/08 Good Day for Swinging

We were all tired of going to the same places over the past few days so we all decided to head to the North Side of the Trestle Pool. It was nice because that lot isn’t typically plowed so there were only two other vehicles were in the lot. It was a nice morning, the sun was shining and the wind was calm……for a little while.

After getting our cleats and gear together Dad, Joe, and Dave headed about a ½ mile downstream to an area they like and I went to the head of the flats just below the Trestle Pool. There were about six other guys on the far side, who seemed to be in the same group, working eggs sacks and floats with noodle rods. There wasn’t anybody near me on the side is was on and there was a nice deep bowl right out from shore with just a tad of current. A little slow to swing with a polyleader and not get snagged, but the fly could be dragged and stripped to keep it off the bottom and impart good action.

I had already put a new piece of tippet on last night, so I put my rod together and tied on a tube fly which is a variation of one of Ken Sawada’s tube flies. 1 ½” long plastic tube with pearl flat braid body for the rear half, at the mid-point blue squirrel tail top and bottom, front body of pearl flat braid with blue squirrel tail top and bottom, purple Lady Amherst tail as a collar, and a dyed red Golden Pheasant Crest for a topping. I thought it might be a little on the bright side with a lack of natural movement, but it did have something going for it………it was different.

I worked a little bit of line out to cover the water in close while overhearing the guys across the stream. The current was so slow the line had to be slowly stripped in to give the effect of current, and I added a few short, sharp strips for added motion. I kept stripping two to three feet of line out for each cast until I was covering a good part of the river, but not interfering with the guys across on the other side. As I was working line out, a few of the guys had hooked fish and lost them due to using light lb test. It was nice to see a few hookups because if there some fish over there, some had to be in front of me as well. On about my 15th cast, the line was out and swinging very slow, so I made three strips and paused. The line kept swinging slow and I went to make the same three strips and pause, but on the second strip the line pulled back and I set the hook out of instinct.

The rod had a nice bend in it and the fish came running right to me so I had to strip in line quickly. The fish then took off, pulled most of the loose line out of my hands, splashed on the surface and I got to see that it was a steelhead…..sweet!! The steely played nice and stayed right in front me, made a few very short runs and came right to shore. It was a nice little male steelhead about 6 lbs with a pretty nasty lamprey wound one side. I took a quick picture, revived him and he vigorously took off to the deeper water. Awesome!! What a great way to start the day.

Checked my knots and re-tied the tube fly hook onto my line just to be ready for the next one. The tippet didn’t get stretched out too bad so I left it on the end of the polyleader. I began working line out like I had before, but started moving down river a little more quickly to cover some fresh water. The guys across the way were still hooking a fish here and there, but none of them could land any and every one them broke off as opposed to the hook coming free.

I was just downstream of them when a drift boat started to come down the river close to my side. I fit in one more cast before the boat got close to me and one of the guys across the river hollers, “The fish are right here!! Anchor about 10 ft upstream of that guy and start fishing. If he doesn’t like it, tell him to go F$%# himself!!” I don’t what that guy had against me, and I felt like shouting back but it wasn’t worth it in the long run. The two guys in the drift boat asked how I was doing and I told them I just got one and wasn’t even fishing the bottom. They both said, “Cool, keep it up!” then told me they had done pretty well upstream. After saying good luck to each other, they kept floating downstream and I kept working downstream.

I fished through the rest of the run with no luck, although some different guys hooked up and landed a few on eggs as I walked by them. I hit all the likely areas and fished some water that was a tad too fast for my liking this time of year, but it was a challenge getting a cast out between branches and tough to keep the fly swinging slow enough. If something was going to take the fly it was going to be explosive. One of those things that keeps you swinging day in day out….the take is great and the tug is the drug. The harder the strike, the more you want it to happen again.

I caught up with Dad, Joe, and Dave to get the scoop on how their morning of fishing turned out. Dave hooked up with a steely right off the bat, but it headed downstream and wasn’t to be. Joe hooked one or two but didn’t land them and my Dad didn’t get a take either.

After lunch Dad wanted to go back to Pineville to try and repeat his performance from yesterday afternoon. Joe and Dave went back to the LFZ to find some space and find some fish.

There were only a few trucks in the Pineville parking lot and a bunch of trucks with trailers for the driftboats. Most of the people seemed to be right around the Pineville Bridge so we headed downstream to where Dad wanted to fish. Nobody was down there so he hopped in where he was yesterday afternoon.

There was some nice water above him that caught my eye, but it was going to be tricky wading around some small fallen trees, and even tougher casting. Took my time getting into the river and waded out just far enough to have room to cast. I figured my Dad had the Purple Mahogan on, so I figured I would put one on too, except mine was brown with a touch of copper. Haven’t hooked one on this fly yet, might as well give it a go. I got my self situated and worked some line out to cover the water in close. No takers in close, so stripped out a little more line after each cast until I was able to fish all of the “good” water.

I started stepping my way down the run after each cast, keeping an eye out for branches in the water from the downed tree which was pointed almost straight downstream. It was a tricky little area so I was making a game plan in my head in case I get a take. I got passed the tip of the downed tree so I was home free as far as wading was concerned. There were still a few downed branches to deal with however.

The water was great at this point. There was a heavy current on the far side, and the majority of water in front of me was about waist to chest deep, at moderate speed, with just enough chop on the surface. The substrate was just right too. I had my hopes up and kept telling myself to drop the line if the time came.

About four steps downstream of the downed tree I made a decent cast that was slightly downstream of me. The line barely turned over, so I made a little mend to get the line tight and held the tip of my rod out towards the center of the water to keep the line swinging smoothly. The fly swung downstream and I followed with the tip of the rod until the rod was in the normal holding position for me.

Just as I got comfortable holding the rod, the line was yanked out of my fingers. I raised the rod to the side to set the hook, there was a nice boil and the fight was on!! Yeah baby!! My Dad turned and looked upstream to see the fish come up and boil again then take off downstream towards him. The reel was singing its song and I was hanging on, enjoying the energy I felt through the rod. This fish felt pretty strong in the current, but I didn’t know how big it was.

I was in a bad spot to land the Steelhead because of the downed tree, plus there were a lot of branches in the water close to shore. There was also a tree below me that had long, low hanging branches that poked out over the stream. I started heading downstream in knee deep water, watching out for obstacles, and reeling as I went. The Steelhead had stopped its downstream run and was slowly making its way back up towards me. It got a little hairy when I was going under the overhanging tree branches because the Steelhead was at a rod lengths away, and I had to hold the rod at a weird angle to get around everything.

A few more steps and I would be home free. The Steelhead took off on short run out into the heavy current and didn’t budge for a little while, so I kept steady pressure on her. She began to come closer little by little, but she was strong and used the current and her fins the best she could. I kept the pressure on and finally she rolled onto her side so I could lead her to the shallow water near shore. I kept her in the water and corralled her in between two tussets of grass. I took a quick picture and passed the camera to my Dad so he could take a few pictures as well. She was tough to handle and kept flopping and writhing around so I got her back in the water, revived her for a little bit and off she went. She was a pretty fish that was just starting to turn a little dark.

I took a short break to dry off my hands and tie on a new piece of tippet. My Dad hopped back in the run after changing flies and started to work the water again. By the time I was ready there was enough room to hop in above him so I started over again with the same fly.

Things were quiet for about a half hour and we both had covered a good amount of water. I made a few longer casts and felt a tug one of them, but I didn’t drop the loop. Darn, I never gave the fish enough slack to suck the fly into its mouth. Checked my rigging and the sharpness of the hook and all was good so I started casting again.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see my Dad set the hook and his rod starts bucking up and down. He looked upstream and gave me a whistle, but I had already began reeling in my line. I got to the shore, headed downstream while getting my camera out, got closer to him and took a picture. I got closer to him and got a good look at the Steelhead he had on and could tell it was about the same size as the one I landed earlier. He had it on for a little while longer and was about to lead it to shore when the hook came free.

He was a little disappointed but happy at the same time. I asked him where the fish took during the swing and he said, “At the very end of the swing, the fly was just hanging there for a second and he nailed it!!”
That was it for the evening. We fished a little while longer without any more takers so we hit the trail, got in the truck and went back to the room to clean up before dinner.

12/2/08 Cold Day

Since Joe and Dave were heading back up to the UFZ, Dad and I went back to the 2A Bridge area. Man it was cold!! I could see icicles on the branches of shrub brush that were near the river. The wind was blowing straight upstream which made casting a little more difficult on the north side of the river.

I started at the abutment on the north side and Dad headed up to the tailout of the Compactor Hole. Did I mention it was cold? I began fishing down through the run and there were two guys on the other side that were staying in the room next to us. I was keeping an eye on them and they were keeping an eye on me. It was like we were all hoping for one of us to hook something just to pick our spirits up a little.

I slowly worked my way downstream covering the water the best I could with sloppy, off shoulder casts, that the wind would grab and send flying upstream. Mending was a bit of a chore to straighten the line out, but the wind helped, sometimes too much. My guides were icing up a little so I would crack it off or dip the tip of the rod into the water to clean them out.

I was just above the abutment during one of the casts. I mended the line and let it swing all the way to shore and the fly was dangling below me. I was kind of in a trance because there was a small flock of male and female Cardinals that would come a few feet away from me and land on the vines attached to the old abutment. They were chirping away and I was trying to mimic them with short, quick whistles. One of the females came a little closer and it was like we were having a little conversation. The other Cardinals seemed rather relaxed as well and I forgot about the cold.

The line was still dangling below me and I had on a tube fly crayfish which must have been bobbing sided to side in the current. The Cardinals spooked and flew to the abutment over on the South side. I watched fly across the river and bump, bump……..whoa!! That’s a take!! Dropped the loop and set the hook and a small 15” Brownie came up to the surface. I brought him into shore as quick as I could, popped the hook out and set him free.

After that I kept working downstream and as I got below the abutment my Dad showed up and wasn’t sure where to go next. I told him to go below 2A Bridge and fish where I hooked that steely the other day. He said, “I thought you were going to head down there and fish?” I said, “I was, but I want to finish this run. Go down there and fish, there is one waiting there for you.” He smiled and made his way down below the bridge.

I kept fishing the run and watched my Dad as he waded into the water and began to fish. Maybe 10 minutes had passed and I was just finishing up the run when I look downstream and see my Dad hooked up to something. I was hoping it was a steelhead so I reeled in, got to shore, and literally ran across the parking area and crossed the road to get over to him. I was a little winded, but definitely a lot warmer and he landed a nice Brownie right as I arrived.

I whipped out my camera, wiped off the foggy lense, and took a few quick pics of the biggest brownie he ever landed. Not huge for Salmon River standards, but alot bigger than anything we fish for at home. I gave him my towel to dry off his hands and asked him what fly it took. He smiled and said, “The Swarn-a-Bugger!!” He also said it wasn’t a hard take, the line just got heavy and came tight in the slack water below the abutment.

He kept fishing below 2A Bridge and I decided to cross the bridge and fish above the abutment on the South side of the river. I hiked to where I wanted to start, which was the bottom tip of the island and began to strip out some line. I decided to change flies and put on a Brown Mahogan. I thought it might track a little deeper in the flow and I could slow it down a tad as well.

I began working my way downstream when I had a comfortable amount of line out. As I worked towards the abutment in the river, I started to angle towards shore so as not to spook anything in the soft water. The fly was swinging a little slow so I had to lead the line with my rod tip to keep it swinging at a nice even speed. My fly was about 6ft above the abutment and swinging towards shore when I felt a pull, but I set the hook instead of dropping the loop. DOH!! No fish on the other end.

I made a few more swings through the same area just in case the same fish came back or maybe another would move for it, but it didn’t happen. I kept working downstream and started making longer casts when I passed the downstream edge of the abutment. It was tough to get a nice swing since there was so much line beyond the abutment and the seam below it would put a wicked “S” curve in the line. To overcome this the cast had to be on more of a downstream angle and I took a few steps forward to better my position.

The fly was swinging much better and I could control it easier as well. I kept telling myself to drop the loop, drop the loop, drop the loop, etc….. I took a few more casts downstream to cover the rest of the tailout on the next to last cast, the line just stopped solid. The loop was dropped and I set the hook after the line came tight. Nothing happened at first, then I felt a big weight throb twice as it slowly started moving towards the center of the river and the hook came free. Hmm, I wonder what the heck that was?

I made a few more casts then went below the 2A Bridge to make a few casts before we went back to the room for an early lunch. I pulled out some line and made a few casts, then I was low holed so I reeled in and headed across the bridge to the parking lot.

When lunch was over Dad and I went back to Pineville to try our luck again since the past few days either he or I hooked a fish the last two times we were there. We fished hard all afternoon and went through the run a couple of times. We changed flies, tried slowing the fly, speeding it up, casting across stream, casting upstream, but it wasn’t to be.

We decided to head in a little early since it was pretty raw and we were both tired from trying to keep warm all day. Boy the Balvenie Scotch and cheese tasted good when we got back.

When Joe and Dave got back to the room they said it was a slow day for them as well and didn’t see many hookups in the LFZ. Hopefully this was the slow day of the week.

12/3/08 Read the Water and Look

Dad and I went to Pineville to fish and Joe and Dave went back to the LFZ for more action. When we pulled into the Pineville parking lot there was a decent amount of trucks in the lot, but it looked there was some room to move around.

We got all of our gear on, and decided to head downstream to the area where my Dad hooked his first Steelhead on a spey rod. A gentleman was walking out and said he didn’t touch anything and there was a drift boat working downstream. We had enough room to hop in above the driftboat so we both picked a spot and started fishing. I followed Dad down through the run as he slowly stepped it off. He was using a Purple Mahogan and I was using an Olive Mahogan tied on a cotter pin.

Nothing was happening so Dad took a break to take a leak and I kept working down through the run rather quickly. I was working the water the best I could and even made a few extra long casts for the hell of it. I was going to keep going downstream, but a guy hopped in below me about 30 yards away. I kept fishing, hoping he would start to move downstream, but he must have had concrete in his boots. I decided it wasn’t meant to be so I reeled in, headed upstream and told my Dad I was going up above the bridge to find some room. Meet at the truck around 11:45-12:00.

I walked up to the bridge and there were people on both sides of the river, but there was room to hop in at the boat ramp and work downstream… least I thought there was. I made about 5 short casts and got low holed again. Son of a…….man I can’t get a break this morning, but damn it’s nice today. Time to make something happen I thought. So I did & made a move.

I only had a little over an hour to find a spot and fish. I briskly walked upstream past the island at Pineville to head to an area I fished a few years ago. I got to the woods where the trail was and there weren’t any fresh footprints in the old snow. Sweet, I might have some fresh water to fish. Kept following the trail upstream and there wasn’t another angler or driftboat in sight. Awesome!! I walked a little faster to get to the head of the run. Found a spot to hop in, looked at my watch, 45 minutes left to fish before lunch. There was just enough time to cover the whole run, even though it would be stepped off quick.

I took off the Olive Mahogan cotter pin and put the tube fly crayfish on the end of my line. Work your magic again baby!! Covered the water in close then started letting her fly. The current was a great speed and I barely had to mend. The tip of the rod was all that was needed to steer the swing and control the speed. Worked down the top half of the run and had to hop out to get around a few trees that made casting impossible. I hopped back in the river when I had enough room cast and starting working down the run again. It worked out good because a driftboat was starting to come downstream and they could fish where I was just fishing.

I looked at my watch and there was about 15-20 minutes before I had to start heading back to the truck. “It’s now or never,” I told myself. The sun was out and it felt great. About that time another bank angler had arrived on the far side and began fishing across from me. He must have received a phone call because he stopped fishing and I could hear him talking.

Just downstream from me there was a nice sized boulder that created a great seam below it and into the tailout. I worked a few casts all around the boulder and let the line swing into the seam below. Stripped out some more line and began angling casts downstream so the slow water in the seam wouldn’t mess with how the line was swinging. I stepped downstream, made another cast and was stepping downstream as the fly swung because I only had so much time to cover the run. Made another cast and mid swing as I was starting to make a step…YANK, YANK, BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!! A hot silver fish starts screaming down and across stream, rolling and thrashing the whole way as my line gets down into the backing. Come on baby!! Stay on!! I kept the pressure on and the steely turned and came running back into the run. I was reeling like crazy, trying to keep the line from binding up. The steelhead got close and I could see it was a nice size female. She felt the stones on her belly and took off on another short run out into the seam I had been fishing. Worked her back in close to shore where she sulked for a little while before succumbing to the pressure of the long rod. Led her close to shore and corralled her in the shallow water. Sweet!!

I grabbed a hold of her tail and looked at her other side because I though I had noticed a sore. On her belly near her pectoral fins there was a sore which had a hook still in it from when she was foul hooked. I removed it, took a few pictures, got my hook out and revived her. She took off rather quickly and I was nice and warm. Splashed some water into the stream and said thank you. She had nice big fins with perfect rays that weren’t bent at all. Checked my watch…..11:45. Perfect.

Broke my rod down and headed down the trail with a big smile on my face.
Dad stayed where we had started in the morning and worked through the run a few times without any luck. He talked with the other guy that was there when I left, but he didn’t have any luck either. Time for lunch and time to put on a new piece of tippet.

Joe and Dave never made it back for lunch, so after eating Dad and I went back to Pineville. I convinced Dad to head upstream with me because the water was better, good room to cast and there wasn’t going to be anybody up there.

We headed up the trail and my tracks were the only ones present….nice!! I showed Dad where to start and where I hooked the fish before lunch. He hopped in and I went above him so he could fish through the water first. He started out alright, but the nearby shrubbery kept reaching out and grabbing his D-loop. I think he got a little frustrated because after about 10 minutes he reeled in went downstream below the obstacles.

I kept working downstream and was swinging the tube fly crayfish into the water where my Dad was fishing. On two back to back casts, the fly swung into the slower water and felt very light tugs at the end of the line. The first time I set the hook….nothing. The second time I dropped the loop and waited to feel the weight….nothing. Made a few more casts with no takers so I hopped out of the run to get down towards my Dad.

He had hopped out when I did so we chatted a little about casting, flies, where to cast etc. He wanted to take a break and have some crackers so he told me to get back in the river so he could watch. I kept stepping down the run and then he hopped back in and started following me down the run.

I got close to the tailout and asked him if he was casting all of the fly line down to the running line. He said, “No, but I can cast it if I want.” So I replied, “Then do it!!” He stripped the rest of the line out and started firing it out there. I kept heading downstream while fishing so I could get to the next run.
About 20 minutes had passed and I was about 50-60 yards downstream of him when I heard a whistle. I look upstream and saw his rod was bent and throbbing with a fish splashing out in the middle of the river…..yeah baby!! I reeled in my line and started walking back upstream to give him a hand landing it. About halfway to him he gave me wave to stay where I was and the fish came unhooked.

That was it for the afternoon. I kept working downstream with no pulls and Dad didn’t have any more hookups either. When we met up he said that Steelhead he had hooked, yanked the heck out of it on the initial take, came up and rolled around and the line got wrapped around its tail. That’s why he had waved to me and the fish just happened to come free at the same time. He was still pretty excited though!!

12/4/08 Raw but Great

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.

12/5/08 Snow and Slush

The forecast for the night was lake effect snow and amounts were to be fairly substantial. The next morning we woke up to a foot of snow so we took our time having breakfast in the room and got geared up around 9:00 am.

We didn’t want to go far so we all went to the 2A Bridge area. We had to wait a little bit since it was being plowed when we arrived. After parking, I got geared up went down to the stream to find it unfishable since it was full of slush. I hollered up to everybody and told them to put everything back in the truck. They looked at me like I was crazy, but when I got closer to them I told them about all the slush in the river. We took a bunch of pictures, then we went back to the room to pack up and head home a day early. It worked out good since we all had a great week and the extra day at home would be nice to get settled in before work on Monday.

After we left Pulaski and travelled about 15-20 miles south, the sun was shining and there wasn’t any snow in sight. It’s amazing what lake effect snow can do around the Great Lakes!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

10/26/06 Streamers are HOT

I had a nice take yesterday morning on a purple conehead zonker style fly so I figured that I would start with that fly. Eric and I were in a tailout up above my Dad and Joe. I started up at the top of the run and Eric took his spot at the very tailout because he had hookups there everyday.

In the first hour Eric hooked a nice steelhead but the hook pulled when it came up for jump. It was a shame because it looked like a nice fish, similar to the size of the one he landed on Monday. That’s the breaks in this game.

Around 10:30 I was in the middle of the run and the current was moving at a nice pace. I don’t about some of you, but on some days I get a feeling that something is about to happen. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t, but you realize that you need to concentrate and really pay attention to everything around you.

Made a decent cast that wasn’t anything near pretty, but the fly landed where I wanted it to and the line had some slack in it so the fly sank a tad quicker. Made just enough of mend to keep the fly swinging smoothly and left it to swing in towards the bank. As the line was straightening out below me I was in the process of taking a step downstream to keep working the tailout and I felt a thump in the line. I set the hook out of pure reaction, felt some nice head shakes and a nice buck steelhead shoots towards the center of the river and makes a sweet jump that I would have given an Olympic 10. After that jump he stayed down in the current and I could feel him rolling around, trying to shake the streamer from his lips. It didn’t work and I led him over to Eric who was poised and ready with the net. I told him to get ready and led the fish to him and as it came to the surface, Eric made his move without hesitation. Steely in the bag!! This one taped out 25” long with a 14” girth. Pretty dark fish too so we assumed it had been in the river for a while.

My dad got king in down below us and Joe had a few steelies on but couldn’t stay tied to them so that was it for the morning. The afternoon was to be nice so we left a ½ hr early to so we could get lunch and come back to the river when the water temp was rising.

Eric and I started in the same spot from the morning session and my Dad joined us well. It was nice, my Dad was just below me and I could see Eric just below us and the sun was peeking out between the clouds.

I started at the top of the run again and stayed there until my Dad had to retie his tippet then I began working my way downstream past him. He knows I like to swing flies and it was a good time for his cigar break so he didn’t mind me going through his spot.

After I got below my Dad and he had enough room to fish, almost the same thing that happened this morning happened again in the same spot. Same cast with the same purple conehead, let the fly swing, straighten out below, start to make a step downstream and WHAM!! This one thumped it pretty good and thrashed around on the surface unlike the one from the morning. He fought nice and came up for some head shakes and when he was tired, Eric was right there on cue with the net. 25” long x 14 ½” girth.

It looked like the same fish but it was lighter in shade and didn’t have any other hook marks in his jaw. WOOHOO!! A two steelhead day swinging a conehead streamer without any other weight on the line. I was more than elated to say the least.

It was around 2:00 and it was somebody else’s turn for a hookup. I took some gear off and hung it on a tree behind us and took a seat on a log while I watched Eric and Dad do their thing.

Sure enough, about 45 min. later, I’m watching my Dad fish and towards the end of his drift he gets hammered. He clamped his fingers on the line and no line was being taken so Eric and I shouted to him to let go of the line. He did, but his drag was set very light and when he let go the rod blank came back and smacked the brim of his cap and almost knocked it off. The line got caught on the reel handle at the same time and I thought he was going to lose it, but he got everything together and began working the steelhead back into range.

Eric was there with the net again and it was another steelhead in the bag. A father and son tag team in the afternoon. It was great!! I taped Dad’s steelhead at 26” long x 14 ½” girth. Nice hot hen that gave him a great fight. He laughed about his hat almost falling off and the line getting caught the reel afterwards.

As we stood there and talked a big shadow flew over us and we all looked up to see a turkey go flying by, then about 6 more went overhead and landed in some nearby trees where we could see them perfectly. Eric started talking turkey and couple started talking back until they realized what was going on. Then Dad started purring at them and the one bird all by her lonesome did a complete 180 on the branch and started looking at him while moving her head around. It was funny to them up in trees like that. After about 20 mins the mother came flying down to the ground. Then another, and a couple more after that until they were all on the ground.

I was more than content and didn’t care if hooked anything else or not so I went down to where Joe was to see how he was doing and shoot the shit. He had a couple on and when I got there he hooked on and we landed it but it was hooked underneath the chin.

10/27/06 More Streamer Action!!

Friday was supposed to be the nicest day so we decided to get up and head over to C & M for breakfast because we were going to fish the whole day rather than taking a break in the afternoon like the previous days.
It worked out great. Just as we got to the river the sun came out and we could feel it warming everything, including us. Eric and I headed up to the tailout like yesterday and Dad and Joe stayed below. The water had come down a bit so it wasn’t pushing quite as much like the previous days so Eric and I figured that the steelies may not hold in the same area and we should move around and work the nearby vicinity because they couldn’t be far.

Eric started a little higher in the run where there was a little more current and hooked one pretty quick like yesterday, but it jumped and spit the hook like yesterday as well. After that about an hour passed and I had worked my way down to the same area where I got my strikes the previous day so I was getting ready for some action.

Every one of the fish I hooked on the streamers came at the end of swing, closer to shore and I was thinking that one of these times something is going to smack it out in the middle. I always hope that swinging flies though. That’s usually when the line is very tight and hit feels like a cement block.

With the water down I could see the structure and the seams a bit better so I could make casts with more accuracy. Straight out and slightly upstream of me was a good sized boulder making a nice seam/holding area behind it. The fly landed just upstream of the boulder and the current sucked the fly down behind and into the seam where it barely started swinging and I felt a heavy weight take control of the line so I set the hook and the rod just about flew out of hand. A nice buck had risen from off the bottom and inhaled the purple conehead and was going crazy thrashing around the surface then took off all the way to the far side of the stream out in the heaviest current.

I thought to myself, this is it, he is going to turn and mack truck downstream and clean my clock. but he didn’t.....WHEW!!! I kept good pressure on him, but not too much, and he wound up holding out in the middle for a good 2 minutes. I worked him closer then he shot back out again. Boy was I glad I had just changed tippet and put a fresh piece of 10 lb fluoro on the line. I felt good about the hook being in a solid place so I took some deep breaths and just held on and let him tire his self out in the heavier current.

He tired after another minute or two and I worked in to the bank where Eric was and he shot back out and thrashed around after he saw him. The second time in I told Eric to be ready and he was. Got him on the surface and he started thrashing around but Eric made a great scoop and he was ours. I looked downstream and my Dad was watching the whole thing unfold so I raised my arms and shouted WOOHOO!!
A gorgeous buck that taped at 28” long x 16” girth with one of his ventral fins clipped. The fly was buried in his lower jaw and wasn’t coming out anytime soon. After a few pics, I continued holding him in the water to revive and he shot out into the river like a bullet.

That was it for me, my day and my trip had been nothing short of amazing. I took fishing gear off and my jacket and soaked up the warm sun while sat on a log and reflected about the whole week and how unbelievable it was. I didn’t fish for good two hrs just had fun watching and waiting for Dad and Eric to hook up.

Joe hooked up later in the afternoon and I helped him land a nice steely and that was it for the day. We actually thought it was going to be better with all the sun but it wasn’t to be.