Feb 10, 2015

Adventure Steelhead 1/30/2015

Recently, John and I did some serious bushwhacking/exploration. We had been looking for a new way to get down to the river, and after a failed attempt or two, we found it. 

 I should say that we found a place where you can park within a certain distance to a river, with public land from the road to the river. Unfortunately, there is no “trail” to speak of, just a poorly used game trail that meanders about 2000’ down a cliff side. It’s not a straight down type of cliff, but a definitely steep slope. I would surely ski it if it was covered in snow.

After an hour of scrambling down this slope, we managed to get to the river right where we thought we would end up (according to our calculations via Google). However, it quickly became apparent that we would not be able to leave the river in the same manner that we went down. Getting up the same way that we descended would not only have been extremely difficult, we would have spent hours climbing up the loose brush and rock. Climbing down had not been that bad, but the thought of going up was pretty much out of the question.

So we fished this run that I had been eyeing for a while. Unfortunately, it was much faster than and not as deep as we had hoped. Bummer dude… Luckily, I am Swiftwater Rescue Certified, and one of the things I learned how to do is cross a river that is moving fast by linking arms and walking in step with a partner while leaning on each other to keep steady. This was really the only way to get across the river as it is fast and forbidding. So we slowly crossed the river and walked downstream along the bank for a while until we found a decent looking piece of water.

So this is where the fish story comes in! 

 I started swinging this run and quickly got my fly into a really nice looking bucket. A fish grabbed my pink bunny leech in mid-swing. It then dropped the fly, and then hit it again even harder on the hang-down at the end of the swing. One head shake and it dropped the fly again. By this point, I was yelling and swearing at this fish. Jon had stopped and was watching the action.

After the second grab (and drop), I quickly stripped the fly twice as it was hanging down at the end of the swing. As if I was trout fishing, this steelhead boiled on my fly and slammed it as hard as possible. I saw all of this as the fly and the fish were in less than two feet of water and less than fifty feet from me. The fish then screamed about fifteen feet of line off my reel and popped off. That fish was hooked and lost. I had never had a steelhead take a fly three times like that in one swing, and never had a winter fish eat a fly on the strip.

So instead of standing there staring at the water in disbelief, I fired a cast ten feet off where that fish popped off towards the deeper side. I mended the line and stripped the fly once. Less that a second later, this fish took the fly again, even harder that the other three times, and proceeded to put me in my backing while going airborne several times.

When I finally landed him, the hook was up in the roof of his mouth, right where it should be. I thought that maybe, just maybe, there were two fish out there that were involved in this incident. When we took a closer look, we could see the fresh hole, still bleeding, in the corner of his mouth from where I had just put a hook in him on the previous cast.

I have been fishing for a long time, and I never had a steelhead ever act that aggressively towards my fly,

especially a winter steelhead. Winter fish are not exactly known for moving a long ways for a fly. Grabbing the fly four times total and getting pinned at least twice in two casts is unheard of. The adventure of getting to the river was totally worth the sweat and soreness, but the fish was a bonus that gave us both a glow and a smile for the rest of the day.

We ended up having to walk down the river for quite a while before climbing up the other bank. We then had to figure out how to get to our car on the other side of the river several miles upstream, but that is a completely different story.

Andrew Perrault | Product Specialist | Steelhead Adventurer 
Gorge Fly Shop

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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