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Winter Steelhead – Back Up North

Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing - BrandonRain, snow, hail, rain, sleet, ice pellets, more rain, and more snow…

…rinse and repeat every 30 minutes.

Toss in a 20 minute break every other hour or so and that was pretty much the weather pattern.

The river held though, and with a warm jacket, dry socks, gloves, and steelhead-green-water – the fishing was great!

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[Winter steelhead fishing]

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[Steelhead Brandon]

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Ice pellets

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We got a late start one morning when an accident had the highway closed down on the way to the river. The Jeep came in handy as we whipped a tight u-turn and checked out the watershed to the North (10 minutes away) for an hour. When we returned, traffic was moving again and I quickly snapped off this shot as we rubber-necked our way through. What it doesn’t show is the truck and driftboat at the bottom of the ravine to the left, upside down. Nor does it show the logging truck, upside down in the ditch to the right. Apparently everyone was alright.

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[Brandon Squyres with Dolly Vardon]

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[steelhead fly fishing whitefish]

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On the last morning I finally hooked up. We had crossed the river early and fished one of our favorite runs at first light. Neither of us had a grab and on the way back to the crossing point we decided to check out a run below.

I changed my mind halfway to the next run and let Brandon have that piece of water to him self and continued hiking down river. There was a new fishy-looking run we had found a few days prior that was a little further down stream and it was calling my name.

Well, wouldn’t you know it. Just as my fly was swinging into the sweet spot I got the tap-tap. “Woo Hoo, Dolly!” I thought to myself. The tap-tap soon turned into a wiggle-wiggle, and then it slowly began taking line. The pressure increased, as did the rate of line that was now spewing off my reel, “STEELHEAD!!”

As the fish continued to burn line on that downstream run, I was screaming into the radio “Woo Hoo!”, “I’m HOOKED-UP!!”. “Brandon – BIG STEELHEAD”!!

Eventually the fish slowed down, and out of the water it came, in a blazing, crashing jump, way down river. It was a big fish.

The line retrieval seemed to go on forever as I returned yard after yard of backing to my reel. Finally I was back to fly line, and I’d even began stacking the belly on the reel before it made its next lunge for freedom.

It was incredible, the fish jumped 2 feet out of the water, 20 feet away from me, in a form I will not forget. The picture seemed to freeze for a moment as the big bright hen gracefully porpoised into the air, then momentarily paused at the apex, slowly curled to one side, and then came crashing back down with a thunderous ka-BOOM!

My heart hadn’t beat that fast since chasing rooster fish last summer. We played a bit of tug-of-war for a few more minutes and then I began steering her in towards the shore.

I remember thinking at that very moment that the hook-set must be good considering it had survived the series of jumps and some side-to-side tug-of-war, so my chances were pretty good at beaching her as long as I maintained steady pressure on the barbless hook and took it easy.

My confidence was returning and she was within 10 feet of the bank. Then the hook pulled free.

I stood there in the water for a while in shock, and eventually headed for the bank to have a seat and catch my breath when Brandon’s voice came across the radio, “Anything down there?”

Apparently his radio had been off the whole time.

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As mentioned in November’s Steelhead post, the river had recently made a dramatic change in its course in one section. This satellite image shows the “new” course in red. The river runs from right to left.

It literally blew a hole through the forest 100+ yards wide.

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This shot was taken downstream, looking upstream. The channel on the left is the old path. The channel on the right is the new path. Note all the ripped out trees.

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It was really amazing to see what power the hydraulics must of had.

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[Brandon Squyres fly fishing for steelhead]

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