Tuesday, September 30, 2008

well fuck me, it happened

Sometime ago, maybe 10 years or so, I heard that steelhead take dry flies. At the time I didn't really believe it. See, back then I barely believed that they would take a fly...only under strict and rare circumstances. But this is the common mind of a Great Lakes steelheader, especially one fishing North Shore Lake Superior tribs. For me the game was spawn bags, until a fateful day which saw my brother outfish me using a size 10 hare's ear nymph. I started playing around with it and realized that steelhead would move to the fly with some form of regularity. But even then, dry flies and steelhead were only a pair in the science fiction section of my mind. Then some years passed and I happened to move some great lakes fish to a streamer (prior to this day it was nymphs only for me), it was a big olive conehead muddler and I outfished a super fishy group with the fly by casting up and across, throwing a downstream mend and giving it some action...the steelhead hammered that fly. Dry flies and steelhead that day moved from sci-fi into fiction, a shift toward the believable.

A couple more years passed and I found myself living in Oregon, a friend from back in the midwest set me up with a two handed rod, gave me a casting lesson and a quick one-day course in swinging flies for steelhead. I asked him about steelhead and dry flies and there was no hesitation in the "fuck yeah, they take 'em" reply. Well that would be my mission then, get a steelhead on a dry. I spent some time my first and second summers fishing dries with limited confidence. Then, fishing the Deschutes with a wet fly, I watched a steelhead make a bonafide rise. The wet was planed out on the surface and a steelhead came out of the water for it and smashed it, he missed most of the fly on the first pass but sunk the fly in his boil. Then I saw his tail come out of the water and thrash around, simultaneously feeling the big tug. This was the first time I'd seen any part of a steelhead come out of the water for a fly, it was the first reality bender. On the same trip I had one fish take a riffle hitched muddler, but the fly was in the glare so I wasn't sure if it was on top or not, it was a grab and go but a confidence builder. More trips, more dries swung, one big toilet boil flush under the fly last summer, one head-tail rise in smooth water this summer, but still no fish hooked on the dry.

This past week that friend from the midwest called and asked if I could get out for the weekend. I could and did, there is a big camp on a big river this coming weekend and we wanted to get a headstart, get a program going before all the dudes show up...I think there will be 15 guys, all badass sticks, in the camp so a program going in is key. We went and found some new water, re-affirmed likes or dislikes of "old" water and found some new opposite bank access on known-to-produce runs. One run in particular doesn't get fished much and has a serious penchant for giving it up like a 5 dollar hooker. The first morning we went in the backside and being the generous dude, he let me go through first. When I got to the bucket a fish came up and plucked the dry hard, two casts later on the other side of the bucket another fish came up and missed. I was thinking that was it for the trip, I've fished this river several times in the past and I essentially get two shots per trip...tops. Needless to say I was in disbelief when, three casts after the second fish, I saw a dorsal and tail of a steelhead sharking my fly that was waking downstream. Time slowed way the fuck down, my window of reality was a 5 foot square around the fish and the fly. I'm an atheist or agnostic or whatever the fuck you are when you don't believe that praying works, but I'm pretty sure I was praying anyway when the fish and fly dissapeared and went under and stayed under and stayed under and stayed under. It was probably 2 or 3 true seconds, about 5 minutes in my head, until it came tight. According to the witness "I've never heard a grown man scream like that, it was sorta girly". The fish wasn't big, and I didn't get it in my hands, but got it up real close and the hook popped out. Given that it was most likely a native it's better that way, especially since, given my state of mind, I might have hugged the fish or something...and he thought the scream was girly.

Anyways, thanks to he who let me have first pass through the money bucket. The moment fulfilled a huge goal of mine and has certainly changed my fishing self, in the best of ways.


Anonymous said...

you deserved those fish, t.

fucking righteous amounts of awesomenality in that watershed.

Finspot said...

Brother Leech, good on ya! These are the moments that keep us coming back.

salmobyfly said...