Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Now I pray for rains
On the heels of a spectacular high water outing I had plans to fish with my good friend Gene on Monday. The Cons were pretty much known but the usual game plan was decidedly deviated from for a more systemic approach. We decided to hike way up to the far reaches of our normal routine and work our way back ending where a branch of the trail crosses the river. This route would offer us an opportunity to fish first light on runs that we never or seldom get first crack at. I was also interested in self proving my theory about the previous outings late bite due to the cold water temps we are just starting to experience. We arrived at the top end and fished 2 runs that always turn plenty of fish. Today we struggled to lift any. There were signs that these runs may have been fished but we blew them off as the previous days war scars. 1.5 hrs into the morning we verified that others had beat us to the punch so we cut our losses and doubled back down the river. On the way back we joked about how we should have stuck to our usual game plan and talked ourselves into a miserable state of self pity and what would we do if our next destination was occupied with piscators. We arrived at the large wintering pool to find it untouched. It was pushing 10am. This hole was to keep us occupied for the next hour offering up steelhead after steelhead. At one time Gene hit 3 fish in 3 drifts!
I was fortunate enough to tie into a spectacular buck that took me on an epic journey down river and tested both my gear and nerves to their breaking point. This fish would have been in the 10lb class and was a spectacular representation of the health or our home waters. My day could have ended there but I will let the story unfold. After managing a few more fish from this hole we slid up to a long run just upriver from the wintering hole. Here we were to exchange fish after fish for another hour. One of the highlights was a fresh-in chrome buck pushing towards the 10lb mark. Gene hooked the last fish in the run and it was a good one. Some things are not meant to be and after a fair battle this fish was to get off without either of us getting a good glimpse. I felt his pain and couldn't look him in the face for a few seconds. As any good friend should I offered up some words of encouragement and asked him why he blew that fish? You know kick him when he's down like a real buddy would ;O)
I could tell this was going to bother him for some time as these types of losses usually do. I was anxious to get him into some more fish and we slid back down to the wintering hole where he was to shortly redeem himself and his demeanor. A short time later we decided to move out and make our way down stream to the next run. Along the way we made reference to the spot that the big buck from earlier had taken me and how epic of a battle it was. I may have even made reference to the fact that I was astonished at how I managed that big fish as I usually blow almost all big fish opportunities. "That's just what I do" is my typical response to Gene's query as to why I blew yet another big fish. We reached the crossing point of the river. This section is normally just a crossing point but in high water conditions just below where we cross there is a nice section of water that looks appealing. On a regular day it would be overlooked in an instance but in high water it just looks like a fish should hold in there. Half way into the river crossing I cast my offering into the run and watch my float as I carry on. My float goes down and I set up on a fish. This fish is hooked in pretty fast water and it is hard to tell just how big it is but I do know that I have about 200 yards of fast water down river from me and I am in the midst of another epic journey. 150 yards or so down stream we manage to land the fish in a side pocket in the grass. Gene tails the brute and holds up a stellar wild buck in fill winter colours. This fish is to be the best fish of my steelheading life.
We measured the fish to reference makings on my float rod for accurate measurement later. When I got home I was astonished to learn this fish measured 31.5" long and I estimate the girth at 17 - 18". Truly a fish of a life time for our home waters.
To catch a fish of this caliber is one thing. To do it in the presence of a highly respected peer is another. It means so much to me that I got to experience this moment with my good friend and highly respected steelheader. Without him I may have not landed this fish. Without him I would not be the obsessed freak on the river that I am today. Without him I may not even fish the waters that I truly love today. And without him I would not be the steelheader I am today. When we first fished together he taught me humility. He went 6 for 6 while I scratched my head and he genuinely felt bad. He is the type of guy who would give you his last pack of hooks. He would sit on the bank and wait until you managed a fish after he has taken 2. I can honestly say that Gene enjoyed that fish yesterday as much as I did and that means a lot. Gene, your a hell of a fishing partner and a hell of a steelheader. Thanks for being there, thanks for being my fishing partner, and thanks for being a friend. Oh ya, you cast like a girl. What's wrong with you?
Now Our day wasn't to end here. We were to travel down river and manage a few more fantastic specimins one of which was a Michigan clipper in the 10lb class in full chrome armor caped with a million black markings on his back. These fish are truly from a strong gene pool and a pleasure to have at the end of your line. By the end of the day we made our way out of the valley recapping the days events and joking as we do and gathering a garbage bag full of discardings. I don't think there is an outing where we don't count our blessings and discuss just how fortunate we are to live in the great lakes region and have the opportunities we do for world class steelheading.
As I type this my river has since dropped and cleared. I have done my water site homework, reviewed my multiple weather forecast models, and now I pray for rains.