Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wagons East: Part Two - Getting it Done

Working downriver, we fished several beautiful runs. The river was practically vacant considering it was a Saturday, the poor weather on roads leading to this Steelhead paradise being the main culprit.

In one particular run, we hit gold... Blake started the hot streak with a beautiful fish on the nymph rod.

I began to swing the bottom end of the run, working a seam that was practically mid-river. With my 11' switch rod, I got into a rhythm booming out a few casts to fish the seam effectively.

As I reached the tail end of the seam, I found myself standing on a rocky outcrop, trying not to slip while making one more distant cast. I made my cast into the seam followed by a quick mend... soon enough, I felt a distinct tug, tug, tug, and dropped my rod to the side. FISH ON!

It was a great feeling, and I sure as heck wasn't going to lose the fish. With help from Blake and Ryan, I brought the fish to the net. Naturally, I fumbled the handoff for a photo opportunity, and off went the fish (Note to self: bring mesh landing glove every time I fish!)

There was no photo evidence of the fish, but I was still shaking in disbelief. After 14 months of trying, I had finally swung up a fish on a two-handed fly rod.

Ryan took his turn working the run, as I took a break to ponder the moment. Blake's Springer Spaniel, Otto, joined me as we watched the guys continue to fish.

After what only seemed like five minutes sitting back and watching the guys fish, I hear another "fish on" and look downriver. Ryan is hooked up on the swing...

Ryan and Blake were machine like in fighting and netting the fish, a bright hen. This fish also decided to be shy for the camera, but we couldn't have cared less. 3 fish in the same run? What a day!

I couldn't keep watching the guys thump on fish, so I grabbed my nymph rod and worked the top of the run. Sure enough, fish on! A feisty fish came to the net, and I had my third Steelhead of the day!

Blake matched with another nymphed up Steelhead and we called it quits with five fish in the same run... what a day it had been.

Cold beers, warm brats, and chili kept us content despite the early setting sun. The red hot fishing had me wishing for the longer days of September, but we had a good plan for our last day on the river.

Sunday came, and we worked separate runs to start the day with nary a tug to show for it. Heading back to our go-to run from the day before, we hoped our fortunes would change.

The guys immediately went to swing the bottom half of the run, while I nymphed up top. After a few whitefish, including one that struck my indicator, I briefly hooked up to a Steelhead. Having lost my first fish of the trip, I was feeling fairly agitated. Without rechecking my rig, I kept casting and soon my indicator buried into the flow. I set hard, but nothing was there. Checking my rig, I figured out why... the fish had broken me off!

The guys kept signaling that they were getting "bumps" while swinging below and I couldn't help but get into the action.

After Ryan had gotten far enough down the run, I began to throw a few long distance casts. Not far from where I had gotten my first swung fish the day prior, my line went tight... fish on!

Photo by Ryan Bailey
This fish was a real treat. Aerial displays, long runs, and the sort of determination that wild Steelhead are known for. It took my own tied fly (another Steelhead first for me) and was the first fish that I've landed with my Hardy reel, which sang beautifully while the fish made its runs.

Photo by Ryan Bailey
After some tasteful photos, the little buck swam back into the river's current. The trip couldn't have gotten any better.

Or so I thought.

It was nearly time to head back to camp to pack up and head home. I asked Blake if I could get a few last casts in behind him, and I went to work.

With barely my shooting head out of the rod tip, my line went tight again... fish on! Another beautiful wild Steelhead had taken my self tied fly, and the fight was on. The beautiful wild hen Steelhead put on  another special show, and capped what will be an unforgettable trip for me.

Over a few days, we had combined to catch ten Steelhead... TEN! I finally got a fish swinging the two handed rod (three of them to boot), got Steelhead on my own flies, and explored new water. Getting to spend time with two good friends was the real kicker to this great trip. I certainly owe them a few days of local knowledge (however crappy it may be) on my home rivers!

As I made the seven hour drive back home, I kept replaying the trip in my mind. I headed East to get it done on the swing... Now to get it done on some of the west side rivers!

Photo by Ryan Bailey