17 hours ago
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Steelhead Camp Part 1
Keith Darnall and my old lab Sage taking a break.
Our Fall annual Steelhead camp this year was a lot different then in past years. Usually we try and spend at least a week on the Dry Side fishing on several different rivers and this year only allowed for a short window to be spent in these different locations. Also for the first time I was able to take my father on this yearly pilgrimage.
My father, an old vet who grew up trolling for walleye in Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa could never really get the hang of fly fishing. Though he has caught a fair share of fish in Alaska on the fly, he has always been intimidated by casting the single hander and leery of trying to cast the spey rod. So this year with the help of friends who fish gear, we were able to outfit him with semi appropriate equipment for salmon and steelhead fishing.
Not ever catching a steelhead on gear, I only have a modest knowledge of how to catch one with such equipment. Also knowing the etiquette of the river and knowing how he listens to his youngest son, I was not sure how this trip was going to pan out for him, not to mention the odd amount of stress I had knowing I wanted him to catch fish and have a good time, while I had to try and help him do something I had never been successful at.
So after a long night of driving and a nap we found ourselves with some good friends on the Clearwater River. Like all good tourist in the area we decided to drive up the river, visit Poppy at the Red Shed and get our licensees and tribal permits. After feeling like we wasted the morning we finally got a swingable run in the lower river. The sun was on the water and fish were in the area because several boats kept on catching them just upstream of us. After working the run for a few hours I finally get that dry line grab and the loop taken from me then the set followed by this odd feeling I have come accustomed to on the Clearwater. Seconds later my annual dry line whitefish on the Clearwater was landed. That was the last grab I got in the two days spent there.
So the following morning we headed upstream to one of my good friend Keith Darnall's spots. We put my dad in the bucket, Keith went downstream and I walked above the run and worked the tailout into the run. About a half hour later I work my way to where my father was. He had broken his jig off on a rock and was trying to re-rig his outfit. Knowing granny knots are not the best knots for fishing, I decided to get him set back up. With my line still in the water on the dangle I got his setup back into working order and casted it while trying to explain how to run a drift down the seam. After reeling it in I casted again and then it happened, bobber down, reel, set then a fish flying through the air. I still had the spey rod in my arm pit and 90 plus feet of line dangling below me and handed it to my dad. I guess a good son would have handed the rod with the fish on it to his father, but I handed him the spey rod instead. Oops :).
A half dozen jumps later the fish was on the beach. A nice big B-Run. I was shocked how much control I had on this large fish on a 6'6" spinning rod. The black and red jig the fish was caught on I tied just a few days earlier. The jig it was tied on was pulled off a rock in the river and sat in a box with all the corkies and hooks I had kept over the years. Thank god for recycling.
Now catching a steelhead on a spinning rod is not a big accomplishment by any means. Hell lots of steelhead fly fishermen have done it before they took up fly fishing, but for me this was a first, and a grand fish to do it with.