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.