Friday, December 12, 2008
We Bulldozed em!
Sounds good but not entirely true as you will soon find out...
Once again Norland and myself had the opportunity to spend a day up the lake chasing Steelhead. Jonesing really bad to fish some new water we decided to break from routine, throw caution to the wind, and check out a recommended locale. Arriving early and not being familiar with the area we opted to stay in the warmth of the Tercel and do a little country driving in search of other options for future endeavours. The country side in this area is extremely beautiful with it's rolling terrain and mixed hardwood forests. It really got me thinking how nice it would be to own a country property here. A place to go and relax and forget about everything that is routine and normal in life. A place where there would be no distractions with exception to stoking the fire or slipping out to fish. Perhaps my age is becoming more apparent but it is the simplicity and isolation that appeals to me more and more each year. And to own a retreat in an area as beautiful as this within proximity to home waters would be priceless.
Having snooped around enough we thought we better get to our access point and don our attire for the trek back to the river. It was a crisp morning with the threat of flurries in the forecast and a true winter sky hanging over our heads. The kind of sky that makes you shiver just looking at it. Being unfamiliar with the area we followed the directions as best as we could but ended up missing a turn and bushwhacking through thick brush and deep snow. This took its toll and had us second guessing our decision early in the outing. Perseverance paid off and we found ourselves back on track and arriving at the river. As expected the river was running strong but the colour was a magical emerald green. Our inside scoop had us crossing the river and fishing down stream. This was not going to happen with this flow this morning so we opted to head up river in search of fishable water or an easy crossing point. Arriving at the next bend we found some flat water with a tributary dumping into the main flow. Gene hooked a fish on his first drift while I fumbled around retying my hook. This fish was uncharacteristically hot for December and rocketed down stream breaching the surface. After a short tussle this fish managed to get the better of Norland. Gene retied a fresh hook and lobbed in another offering. Instantly as he nicely mended his slack line the float shot down and he was into yet another hot December chromer yelling down to me to get my butt up there as the fish must be stacked in that location. After a formidable battle I managed to tail the fish for Gene. A beautiful hen in winter colours. This fish had fresh lesions on it's body conducive to those of a large raptor. After a few photos she disappeared onto the emerald abyss. With grand expectations I made my way up to the top of the run and casted my offering into the swift flow slowly mending it back to my preferred line of approach. Drift after drift seemed futile. The run had shutdown and we were forced to look for another option. We found a shallow flat spot that afforded us easy crossing just above the trib and took advantage of it. Now being on the opposite side we started to make our way down stream. We arrived at some fast water in a slight bend in the river that had a current break on our side. We had tried to fish this line from the other side on the way up but could not do so properly. Gene was retying so I took the top and lobbed one into the swift flow. I trotted the offering slightly back until I had my desired line. Part way down the drift my flow plummets and I instinctively setup to a thumping reply and an explosive run into the fast water. Fish I exclaimed as line screamed from my reel. Another hot fish! I had the feeling this was a large fish but in the fast water it's sometimes hard to tell. The fish took numerous runs until a chase was inevitable. Part way down I managed to slow her up and thought that I had a chance to beach her. Until now we had yet to see this fish and if you know my luck at any moment that little hook was sure to come flying back at us. She made her way to the undercut at my feet and I managed to get her up to the surface for a look. She was definitely a nice fish but instantly had a look at us and once again peeled down river. Just below me was an extended willow and immediately below that another. These trees were in the water and an impassible barrier to me in the high flow conditions. We talked over our options but the fish made a break for the second tree catching my line in the process on the first tree. Gene immediately shot for the water and managed to free my line. I passed my rod under the tree to him and hopped over. While looking up I could see my float caught in the second tree just floating slack by the mess of grass and wood caught in it. I notified Gene that the fish was gone and had snagged me in the tree. As I reeled in the slack the fish gave a tug and jetted downstream. The fish was still on!!! An act of kindness and lunacy. The chase was once again on but this time with bursts of laughter and disbelief. We managed to beach the big girl into the grass. She was awesome sporting her big belly, tail and winter colours. After a few pics she was on her way with only her pride hurt. A wave of relief warmed my body and I stood in awe for a moment collecting my thoughts as the snow pelted down upon me. Sometimes one fish can change your day. Sometimes you only get one shot and when it all comes together it can truly be a special moment. Today I had that moment and was left with a story I will never forget. We fished this line a little while longer and worked our way down river to the run that was recommended to us. We fished the river hard to no avail. There were no obvious lines or slack water downstream in this flow and the appealing water we did fish was void of willing participants. By now it was noon and we knew we had a fair hike back in the snow to the crossing so we doubled back. Stopping for a break and to fish a piece of water I looked down stream to see G up to his waist at he edge of the river. I recast upstream and watched my float pass me and start to make it's way down river. As my head reached 2 o-clock I noticed Gene in the middle of the river up to his armpits flailing his hands in a swimming motion. I watched in awe as he bounced from the bottom and paddled past the center of the swift flow reaching the other side. Breaching the bank he let out a sigh of relief and communicated just how cold the water really was. He then went on to instruct me not to cross there as it is very deep. I sternly agreed and continued upriver to the feeder creek. Once there I opted to fish the inside bend that we couldn't reach from the other side earlier in the morning. Gene appeared from around the bend and set up nicely on the spot he fished in the morning. A few drifts in and Norland hooks yet another hot fish from the same line as earlier. Being on the far bank I was unable to assist so I started to make my way to the other side of the river as Gene disappeared around the bend in hot pursuit. A little while later I managed to get to the other side and Gene appeared around the bend holding a titanium bullet. After a few photo ops she was on her way back into the depths. A few more drifts for me and my day started to resemble a comedy act. I went from ice ups to tree snag to birds nest until finally deciding to pull the plug. We already had a successful outing and with the looming hike out ahead of use it was time to go. Let me tell you...Deep snow with a crusty layer on top sucks! Every third step we would break through to our knees. We took our time and stopped for many breaks. Arriving at the car we geared down and settled in for the ride home. Gene discovered that his camera no longer works nor does his cel phone. I guess when you submerge them in near freezing water they tend to do that.
It was nice to stretch our legs and get out of our comfort zone for a change. The pressure on the river today was nonexistent in this stretch. The river was stellar. The colour was hypnotising. The flow was big. The forest was beautiful and the snow and winter sky ominous. Winter Steelheading has a special place in my heart. Today was a classic winter outing with memories that will last a lifetime.