Sunday, April 07, 2013

Spring Time Critters...

Truth be told...I haven't had much writing ambition as of late.   The past couple of weekend outings have been trying to say the least. The trip up with Arn was a lot of fun.  It was nice to share a few drifts and see him enjoy the river.  We found a couple of fish but worked extremely hard for them.  I lost a tank up at the three sisters that still haunts me.  The highlight of that weekend was the abundance of critters running around the countryside...  Deer, Turkey, Possums, Mink,  Sandhill Cranes, etc. etc. etc.
The clock is really ticking on my fishing options with a spring outage on the books at work.  This coupled with prepping for the Alaska trip has had all of my free time consumed.
The water conditions have been magnificent for the past month  but the pushes of fish have been mere trickles.  The forest is covered in snow, upwards of a foot in places, and this spring is gearing up to resemble one from the distant past.  The next month should see some pretty exciting fishing on the West Side.   Normally I would be ecstatic with how this is playing out but work has once again managed to find a way to intervene in my happiness.  The spring outage is a a double edged sword for me...  On one hand I will most likely miss the big push on the Manistee when it happens but the overtime that will result will certainly pay for my Alaska trip. 
Truth be told the Alaska trip is the prize at the end of the rainbow and is what will get me through this shutdown.  As I type this we are a mere 20 days away from the journey.  God I hope it's epic!  Historically every second year sees a bumper push of fish on the Situk according to the Alaska DNR Weir census data.  As luck would have it we are in a second year scenario.  Knock on wood...
So... this weekend was most likely going to be my last shot at the big river for 3-4 weeks.  I am on the hook at work for Sunday so I booked off Friday and planned on fishing two days. 
I was hoping there would be a few more fish around to put the R-type to the test but Friday was a struggle.  I worked hard all morning to no avail.  I fished from the coffer all the way down to the Tunk hole.  Finally I found a nice chromer up near the Dam just prior to pulling the plug.  It was a welcomed reward and certainly felt good after a major workout.  Spring dimes are always bonus.  Friday night I thought long and hard about my options for the morning.  I really wasn't looking forward to battling the crowds at the damn for the little fish that are kicking around there.  I knew it was going to be a circus anywhere I went so I opted for the first light fish at Suicide. 
I figured I'd hit a few fish early and jet while the weekend warriors started rolling in after their bacon and egg restaurant breakfasts.
I managed to get my old bones out of bed at a decent hour but still  found myself leaving the cabin as the darkness was fading.  I arrived to the parking access to find it full.  The giant snowbanks from the lingering winter have the parking lot capacity pretty much down to a fraction of what it should hold.  Nonetheless there were at least 10 vehicles there and I took this as a message that I was not meant to fish there this morning.
 Plan B was in order and I turned around and headed back for the Sawdust Access.  I was very reluctant to drive back in.  A few years ago I took the minivan back in there when 4x4's were parking at the road and walking in.  I made it back and out but not without some sweet driving and a self push while the I left the van in drive.  I swore I'd never roll the dice on that place again unless the road was snow and ice free.  This morning it looked more civil from the road so  I threw caution to the wind and headed back in.  It's pretty much a single lane in and out this time of the year and as I proceeded back the ruts got bigger and deeper until the van started to bottom out on the Icy middle. 
There was no stopping now!   If another vehicle had been coming the other way I would have certainly been done.  Luckily for me there wasn't and I plowed my way back to the fee station parking lot.  Surprisingly there was a bunch of people camping back there.  A mixture of 5th wheels and wall Tents.  The fresh snow that was now falling reminded my how fortunate we are to have the cabin...and the Woodstove.  It was not so long ago that a camping trip of this nature for a shot at some decent Steelhead action would have been right down my alley.
The Sawdust run has always treated me well.  This section is one of the most beautiful on the river and I always enjoy my time spent here.  The fishing can vary and it's all time dependant.  I was sure there would be at least one kicking around with my name on it so I paid my Access fee and made the descent to the valley floor.  The river was in amazing shape.  The vis was crystal and the flow was marginally high.  It reminded me of the High Bank Drifters trip we did about 3-4 years back.  There was already a few boats kicking around but lots of room so I dropped in to my usual starting run.  As I made a few drifts people started to make their way down the hill and along the bank. 
My next planned destination became populated and I began to get antsy.  I pulled the plug and hiked down river to the one and only spot that I absolutely had to fish before it became overrun.  This spot holds a special place in my heart as I landed one of my all time top ten fish there.  It was during the "High Bank Drifters" Trip.  It was a tank of a Hen that I absolutely had no business messing with but somehow managed to swing  to Norlands awaiting grip.  It was a team effort and  I will never forget that fish or day for as long as I live.  I always make a point of fishing that run with utmost attention to detail whenever I'm down there and always relive that memory.
I walked down the path to the river and set up under the small Pine Tree on a level gravel bar.  After a couple of drifts my float dropped far into the run.  I set up hard convinced it was the gravel hump at the back of the run when the R-Type loaded up proud and the stern head shakes provided instant confirmation.  It was a big fish and I really wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into.  There is really only a small section of river bank where the stairs come down that affords any shot at banking the fish solo.  Other than that it's overhanging brush and sheered bank.  Between the size and power of this fish and the healthy river flow the R-type rod was really getting a workout. 
I must admit I was impressed by this blank.  I have been running  super sticky #8 Gamakatsu Octopus hooks lately on 6lb Maxima Flouro so it gave me some leeway to stand on this fish.  It handled the situation perfectly and afforded me the opportunity to swing the large hen right onto the submerged step where I tailed her.  It was another great moment.  Another giant hen from this section and at a time when I really needed a confidence booster.  She certainly made my trip and the rest of the day would only be a bonus.  I couldn't help but think this rod will be a welcomed addition to my arsenal for the AK trip. 
I pounded the run for another 30-40 mins and dropped down to the giant deep water section just below it.  I managed a dime shaker right out of the gate but nothing else.  By now the wind was ripping down the river and it was very cold.  My toes were reminding me just how cold the river still is so I opted to hike back up river towards the Gravel Flats.  I couldn't help but marvel at just how pristine the river looked.  It certainly instilled some confidence. 
One at my destination I wouldn't have made 3-4 drifts when I found myself into another large chrome hen.  Once again the rod met the mark and handled the situation to a Tee.  I managed to swing the pretty lady onto the bank and my awaiting grip.  I couldn't have ended my weekend trip better.  Three fish and an honest workout for the rod review.  As I type this I'm an hour away from packing up and hitting the Interstate for home. 
I have mixed feelings about missing the next three weeks up here and have already started  to devise an exit strategy for next weekend. 
I can do without the crowds but the lure of timing a decent push is ever present.  By the time the weekend rolls around work will have me in dire need of some alone time on the water so there is a small chance I may find myself on the road headed NW next Friday evening ;0)

Stay tuned folks...


Trotsky said...

Nice looking life is dogshit..literally

Gil said...

Very nice Brian. Sometimes sticking it out for a fish or two does not necessarily make sense considering the level we are at however on the flipside, you got nice fish with more memories and experiences to draw from later on. Good stuff.

JB said...

Great read brother!

3 sisters > Sawdust.