Sunday, May 19, 2013

Under The Bridge

Tuesdays float left us saturated and sore. After manipulating some 14 miles of Situk gravel bars and Log Jams we were looking for a change of pace. The previous morning’s snowfall had changed to a steady rain by mid afternoon and the downpour ensued all evening and well into the morning. We awoke Wednesday to a partially flooded parking lot down at the bay and a stern reminder that after all we were indeed in North America’s largest temperate rain forest.
The Rain was a mixed blessing. There was no argument that it would certainly have a positive impact on the river. Most definitely the flow would increase and as a result tempt pushes of fresh chrome in from the salt with the evening tide. It would also shake things up within the system and move fish around . On the other hand was the fact that the forecast remained in excess of 50mm or 2” per day for the remainder of our trip which had  us all a little concerned.
We had a late breakfast and made our way up the Forest Service road towards 9-mile bridge. The game plan was simple. We would hike the river looking for pods of fish and with any luck the bridge hole would be unoccupied upon our arrival and we could start our morning there. This run is very deep and from all my research consistently holds fish.
There was little to no reports I had read over the years without making reference to pulling fish from this location. The day of our arrival Red managed to convince 4 fish in the the limited time we spent on the river so I was confident the fish were stacked up in there.
Arriving at the bridge we were greeted by another 4-5 vehicles but were pleasantly surprised to find the hole vacant. Red opted for the boat ramp side where he had experienced his luck a few days prior and I dropped down on the East side while Scotty re-rigged his Bait-caster back at the Van. The rain continued to fall steady but the anticipation of the mornings first fish made it almost non apparent.
The first few drift with beads convinced no players. I experimented with depth trying to dial in on the now changed river elevation and flow but was anxious to try something different. It was obvious the river had come up 8-12 " since the previous day. I had tied up a bunch of sexy Marabou Jigs on 2x strong Mustad hooks and decided now was as good a time as any to validate my efforts.
I reached into my kit and pulled out a sexy purple and hot pink creation.  It was a Text book West Coast color scheme and seemed to fit the bill for this dark and deep water. I tied these jigs extra-large and long knowing these fish from the Salt are aggressive.   I like to pre-wet my jigs prior to any drifts to saturate the feathers and ensure that the marabou comes alive on the first drift. After doing so I made the throw slightly upstream and tight to the abutment.
There was a well defined seam that came off of the end of the abutment and ran the duration of the hole well into the tailout. This cast allowed my offering to follow that center line perfectly through the run and down into the tail out water. Once it hit the marginally slower section my float dropped and I set up hard. Instantly a giant chrome slab appeared deep in the dark abyss as if suspended in time. This was followed by three slow motion head shakes just prior to all hell breaking loose.
As soon as I witnessed the chrome flash  down in the depths I knew it was a giant fish.   It was my first of the morning and put my tired body to the test.   I was certainly glad I had decided to run a 12lb mainline and the 8lb flouro leads. These fish do not appear to be line shy and the shear size and power of the Saltwater Steelies is unrivaled by any great lakes chromers.
It actually takes them a little bit to realize they are hooked prior to the ensuing melee and pandemonium. The East side of the bridge doesn’t afford a lot of real estate to land these fish. There was only a small 2’x 2’ cove that actually allowed me any chance of swinging a fish onto the bank. With a 10-11’ lead below the float and the 13' GLX it was not going to be an easy task. 
 Every other option was negated by giant rocks  or overhanging spruce. Without a net I certainly had my work cut out for me. Nonetheless patience prevailed and after a multitude of attempts I managed to corral the giant hen into the cove and tail her. She was a magnificent fish. A prime Situk specimen and my first taken on a hand tied jig of my own creation. It was another great moment and certainly a highlight of this trip for me.
During my beaching attempts Scott had made his way to the river.  Luckily he was on hand for a few pics prior to her release. I removed the jig and filed it into my case for a keepsake. I selected another and continued working the run. I ran through a few more jig color schemes without any luck prior to reverting back to a 10 mm bead. This was when things started to get silly. For the next 6-8 hours we continued to turn fish regularly on beads.
Things would slow down only to be rekindled by a passing boat or Jet Sled. As soon as that happened we would be back into 2 or 3 more fish. For a while each fish seemed to surpass it's predecessor in size. I don't know how many times I told Scotty that I had just caught the largest Steelhead of my life only to surpass it and repeat the statement with the next fish. It never got old and the "money bead" was on fire.
 It took a little while to dial in on the colour and the depth but once reached the action was hot and heavy. The river was rising fast right under our noses and the rains still continued to fall.  We were drenched to the core!  It didn't matter because the river was teeming with giant Steelhead and they were cooperating. At one point Scotty hooked a giant fish that blast past him and up under the bridge towards the rapids.
 He clamped down on his drag and turned the fish but didn't readjust in time prior to his hook actually snapping off midway up the shank. I couldn't believe just how large and powerful these fish are. There were also a few fish that ran super hard and deep into the tailout on me. The guys laughed at my misfortune and dismissed the fish as gone but the GLX and the 12lb Maxima allowed me to clamp down and turn the giants.
 I lost track of how many fish the three of us had hooked but it was a silly number. More notable was the amount of giant fish we hooked and landed. Without a word of a lie I must have beaten my personal best 6-7 times over the course of the day. The days success was completely unexpected and a lot of fun.  Cetainly validation as to why we boarded the airplane in DTW.
Definitely one of those days I will be reminiscing about for many years to come.

And yet the rains continued to fall...


JB said...

Good Lord! You murdered them!! How are you ever going to see the great lakes in the same light as you did "pre-AK"???

lambton said...

LOL no worries there my friend. The Greatlakes offer so much variety and literally on our doorstep that they will never be replaced in my heart. AK was amazing though and I can't wait to go back. That little river is a fish factory and it would be amazing to time it right on the button.