A semi-coherant collection of ramblings,misdealings, and Tom Foolery experienced in pursuit of Great Lakes Steelhead.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
January has been a crazy weather month so far so it was no wonder this morning I awoke to the sound of water dripping off the roof. Friday mornings deep winter chill was nothing more than a distant memory and the days steelheading adventure was looking rather promising. I knew this warm spell was to be short lived as the weatherman had already predicted a frigid lock down come Sunday and running well into next week accompanied with lots of snow. It was looking like winter was going to seriously make a run at it and today was going to be the last gift on the river. Gary Melzer from Schmidt's Outfitters was so kind as to extend an offer of a day on the river in his Jet Sled. I fished with Gary back in the spring out of Bear Creek in my Hyde and was eager to get together with him again on the water.
Gary is serious into the Centerpin Scene over here on the West side and now offers it as an option for his guide service out of Schmidt's. Gary picked me up at 8:30 and we made out way to the High Bridge launch. The winds were non existent and the river was dead still. There was no traffic to speak of and we made our way up river to some favourable water. The scenery was magnificent and we couldn't have asked for a better day. The only problem was neither of us could convince a finned friend to hand. We threw everything we had at them to no avail. I could tell Gary was feeling pressured to put us on some fish but I had to explain to him this was all on me and my recent funk. We laughed it off and spent the remainder of the day with great weather, conversation and scenery.
We parted ways around 1:30 in my driveway. I still had time for an afternoon session at the dam so I got my gear together and made my way to the access.
As expected there was a decent amount of traffic on this section. Arriving to the river it was apparent this water fished better than our earlier choice. There were a few nice steelhead on ropes destined for the dinner table. I dropped in and worked my A-game trying hard to turn a willing participant. Nothing was happening. I continued on around the big bend and fished all of my usual haunts in a half mile or so of river with only a few trout and an acrobatic 15" shaker steelie to hand. With an hour or so of remaining fishable light I made the turn and decided to walk all the way back up to the dam and see if I could get out on the bar. When I arrived I was pleased to see only one other fisherman below the coffer and well above my destination.
I had already re-rigged with a 10mm washed egg bead prior to hiking back up and was ready to pick away the lines as a last ditch effort. I slowly worked my way out to on the bar working line after line. I could see an unfamiliar seam far out toward the other side in the middle slack water section and I pushed myself further out onto the bar so I could reach the line with my next cast. The throw was perfect and as my float entered the anomaly it jetted below the surface and I set up hard fully expecting a float and bead in my face. I was shocked as the rod loaded up and a very hot fish raced frantically for the big bend. The 13' 6" RV9 I am reviewing for Raven loaded up very nicely and was now getting a legitimate workout. This rod has been pitched as a big water stick with plenty of backbone so I was seriously thinking I had one hell of a beastie on the end of the line as it was all I could do to stop this fish from hitting the bend. I started to back my way out of the flow and see if I could persuade the fish away from the center currents.
I knew it was a ways down river but I immediately became concerned when it rolled on the surface well down by the log jam. I had managed to stop the fish but another run would spell certain disaster so I clamped down a little more and continued to work my way to the bank. Once on the shore I worked my way down towards the fish and managed to convince it to come back into a deep slack section. It wasn't long there after I made the swing and felt that almost forgotten feeling of success. It was a very long and lean speed machines of a Steelhead. The tail was freakishly large and the taper of the fish was reminiscent of a Skam. This fish was built for speed and it was not wonder it beat me up so bad. It had to easily push 30" mark but the girth was not conducive to a 10lb fish but more that of a 7. Dressed in full winter apparel it was obviously this beast had done prior battle with some Pluggers judging by the battle scars on his mandible.
This time it was a washed egg bead and a #8 Owner hook tucked perfectly in the corner of his mouth that deceived him. I was now exhausted and relieved. Finally a decent battle and finally a decent reward. It has been a tough run this winter and I have come up short more than not on these seemingly rare opportunities. Under the circumstances and sheer power this fish exhibited it certainly was a wonder we got to meet...no doubt a certain amount of luck was involved.
As I collect my thoughts and rest my weary bones I can't help but think that these are the fish that you remember...these are memories that stay with you for life...you cant buy this sh*t...and that only makes it that much more priceless.