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Steelhead, November 2006

Thompson River Steelhead - DougThe Pacific North West had it’s fair share of wet weather recently causing record flooding in the North West.

When I got the email from Brandon a few days before our trip stating that the river we’d hoped to hit on the way was 10 feet above flood stage it was clear that the planned morning chum salmon stop on the way would not be happening this year…

…Instead – an extra few hours of sleep, a tasty breakfast, a longer stop at the foreign flyshop, and enough light remaining when we arrived to take a peek at a few runs on the river.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

Although the NW had been pounded by rain recently the word on our target river was still very good, in fact, potentially great! Because it’s an interior watershed, it takes a lot to blow it out. Reports had been that one of its major tributaries had brought the level up and dirtied it up considerably with its muddy influence earlier in the week but it was coming back in and could be perfect for our stay.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

The reports were right on; the river was in great shape!

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

Making use of the early evenings this time of year and the fly tying materials we’d picked up on the way, Brandon tied some awesome spey flies in the motel room.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

As stated in last year’s post, the river and its fishable runs are HUGE! The picture below is of Brandon fishing through one of our favorite runs. It just happens to be the run he got a gorgeous 39” hen from 2 years ago.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

On the 3rd day we’d heard that a weather front was supposed to come through overnight and into the next day. It was forecast to be a little rainy and there could be some wind. Man was that ever an understatement… eh! We woke to screaming wind and pouring rain that continued throughout the day. Casting the big 15’ spey rods in the gale-force wind was tough to say the least, but not impossible between gusts… we weren’t about to sit it out.
The weather change appeared to be just what the fish wanted. Mid morning, the 4th day of casting from pre-dawn to post-dusk, I finally felt that tell-tale sign of life bump my fly at the end of my floating line midway through its swing. I dropped the 4’ loop of line from my left hand to let the current pull the fly down into what “should” be the corner of a big steelhead’s mouth. The slack line slowly paid out, the line began to tighten back up, I prayed “God Please”, felt some resistance, and drove the hook home. A 15 pound buck!

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

[Image: Thompson River 2006]
34″ L x 17.5″ G (15.09 pounds)

Brandon tailed the fish for me, took some pictures, and then took my place to finish through the lower part of the famous run as I attempted to walk-off my overwhelming adrenalin rush. Unfortunately that was the only fish to be found on that pass.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

After a quick “chili lunch” at the room we were back on the river and walking down the railroad tracks to our next spot. On our way we discussed the rotation for the next run which is really two, one short piece of “possible” holding-water above and a much more promising piece of slightly longer water directly below. We typically take turns at first choice, alternating who gets to go through the most likely looking water first. When someone catches a fish, that person automatically forfeits his choice and fishes the secondary water until the other gets one. As we approached the runs Brandon had rightfully decided to take the premium water and even hinted that he’d prefer to take them both, allowing me to sit and watch. After threatening to pull “the big brother card”, he reluctantly agreed to let me fish the less likely upper run. Fair enough right?
After a half dozen casts working line out into the run and alternating gazes between Brandon’s spey casts down below, a water ouzel flipping twigs around my feet, and day dreamingly replaying the morning’s big fish in my head, my fly gets blasted by a freight-train of a fish!

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

As the screaming Hardy snaps back to life and backing spews from its spool a turbocharged 14 pound hen determinedly bee-lines across the massive river and down past Brandon, giving him a front seat view of an incredible series of leaps and out-of-control cartwheels.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

I thought for sure Brandon was going to kill me.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]
35″ L x 17″ G (14.66 pounds)

Once again, Brandon tailed the fish and took some pictures. With my heart beating out of control, out of breath, legs twitching, and speechless (if you can believe that), it’s taken a while to come back down. I’m suspecting a full recovery sometime around November, November 2007 that is. What an AWESOME fish!

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

By morning the effects of the previous day’s record storm had made its way down.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

The tributary was now putting the lower river out, limiting visibility to mere inches below the confluence.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

There was still plenty of good water above the muddy trib that provided good fishing over the next and last day. Unfortunately though, our path and a willing fish’s never crossed.

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

[Image: Thompson River Steelhead fishing 2006]

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