A semi-coherant collection of ramblings,misdealings, and Tom Foolery experienced in pursuit of Great Lakes Steelhead.
Sunday, January 08, 2012
With an 8:30 appointment at the local garage for our van the game plan this morning was simple. Wake at 6 am, resurrect the now dwindled fire, and relax on the couch for an hour with a warm cup of Joe prior to hitting the big river. Well once again the comfort and warmth of our bed overpowered the piercing alarm and I found myself rushing around the cabin at 7:30 frantically trying to get everything in order so I could have my wife drop me off at the river access prior to the Van's scheduled repair. After yesterdays success and the minor temp drop of the night prior I was pretty much prepared for a tough morning session. The 15 or so vehicles already at the access site really didn't surprise me much as it was Saturday and it has been a consistent theme this winter with the unseasonably warm weather and the lack of snow for other winter pastimes. I made my way down to the river with hopes of some open water below the coffer. I was pleasantly surprised to witness a lonely stretch of river until well around the bend.
The weekend warrior focus was above the coffer and that didn't hurt my feelings in the least. I picked my starting spot and tossed a green and brown Norland Marabou special to the center of the fast water shute. Three or four drifts later and the float dropped. It didn't take long and a large trout launched a foot and a half from the river and spit the jig. Promising results I thought to myself as I inspected the jig and made another throw back into the run. For the next hour I struggled to entice a take. The cold damp wind didn't help matters and my lack of winter acclimation was starting to take a toll on my demeanor. A short walk was in order to warm up and get the blood flowing. I was hoping the inside of the big bend would find my salvation and warm my now chilled body. This water seldom lets me down and in no time the GL3 was loaded up.
By the immediate head thrashing and surface rolls I could tell I was into a decent sized late run Coho. These fish are almost textbook in their fighting strategies and are almost a 180 degrees from a steelie. With no boat between me and the shore like the day prior I worked the fish back towards the bank and the small window of real estate to beach the fish. He was a gnarly Crimson Buck in full spawning colors. His kype was pronounced and armed with a multitude of serious fangs. It was very apparent that his run from the lake was met with great resistance. His scared body told a grim tale of the hardships of the river. These gnarly males will battle to the end for prime spawning rights. Unlike King Salmon Coho's will readily seek out any available forrage while they are in the river and attack with great aggression.
I still get a thrill out of hooking a decent one and marvel at the astounding spawning colors they transform to in the name of procreation. After a multitude of pics the old man was released and we bid a farewell. The entire episode took a tole on my hands. I had underestimated the cold river water and the damp chill in the air and now my hands were aching. I took 15 mins to regain my composure and get my hands working again before working my way back up towards the coffer for another shot at the center shute. I was now thinking that I would cut the morning session short and get back to the cabin to take care of some errands.
I noticed the section was now vacant and I made my way up to fish the bottom end where I typically have the best luck. As I dropped in the river a couple of Indicator Fly fisherman dropped in the river above me and we all started to cover the water. I was admiring the pace of a similar line I fish in the spring when the float dropped and I set up to a giant Steelhead. For the next 10 mins I struggled to turn the beast from the fast water. Any inch I gained was quickly recouped. I was reluctant to put the boots to this fish as the jigs have a well defined limit and I wasn't prepared to lose the fish on a straightened hook. The fish was winning the battle and there was nothing I could to but hope for the best.
My hands and shoulders were aching. Finally I started to gain some ground. Still the fish fought back and wasn't quite ready to surrender when my worst fears were realized. Without warning the 8gm drennan flew past my shoulder and the fish was gone. I quickly inspected the jig and was pleased to see that it's integrity held. I knew my chances of landing this fish were dwindling as the battled lengthened so I wasn't overly surprised or disappointed when the eventual happened. I actually think there might have been more disappointment with the audience that had formed on the far shore. My hands were now throbbing with pain and once again I found myself idle in pursuit of warmth. A chill had now set across my body and my toes were also starting to hurt from the cold. I made a few more good drifts before succumbing to the elements and calling for my ride. I was happy with my successes and the stern reminder that sometimes the fish have to win too. I contemplated just how big that fish could have been as I made the hike out. The pain in my toes reminded me of the joys associated with winter steelheading. Tomorrow is another day...I wonder if the alarm will lose again.