Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More than epic!

My company was being moved to a new office building today, so with all my files in boxes and desks being moved, what better thing to do than to take a day off for fishing? I was moved by Tom's recent report of epic steelhead fishing on the Methow to brave the 8-hour round trip drive (I actually fished more than I drove - barely).

Leaving Richland at about 2:40 AM, my plan was to make it to the Twisp hole by 6:45 AM in hopes of being the first one there. I made it by 6:35 AM (plenty light to fish). After parking, the first glimpse of the hole showed an empty beach, but my hopes of having the hole to myself were crushed as I looked over the edge of the bridge and saw a curious looking green stripe in the water - a fly line from somebody under the bridge! I went ahead and moved into the very bottom of the run, as this older gentleman was more or less fishing straight downstream (not sure what he was doing). He was around for maybe 20 or 30 minutes, and ended up leaving about 7 AM. I quickly moved up to "pride rock", which became even more prideful today. First cast, strike indicator goes down, lift up to feel a throbbing fish, hear the screaming drag as the fish runs to the far bank. Wow, you gotta love this. Land the fish or break the line. Repeat. Again, and again, and again. That is pretty much how the day went. I quickly learned that big fish, fast water, and old leader material don't mix, and what works fine for 18-inch trout in a lake doesn't do so well with 30-inch steelhead in a fairly fast moving river. Of the first seven fish I had on, only two were landed. The rest broke off in various locations - once in the middle of my 15-lb section of tippet, a couple times on the bead. For the day, only a half dozen actually came unhooked, the rest that were lost broke somewhere in the line.

These fish seem to have oversized tails

After I had landed a few fish, a local high school kid showed up and joined me, and we had a wild time for a couple hours. By 9:30 AM I had landed 7 of the 16 fish I had had on (all from pride rock) and he had probably landed more than a dozen with at least 20 fish on. We also had seven doubles. He had to leave for school, and shortly thereafter a trio of fisherman show up on the bridge to peer down into the hole. One of them asks me if I was there last week with my daughter. I said that was my brother, to which he said "you look just like him" (I'm sure he meant in the way I handle the fly rod, not physical appearance, although Tom might dispute that; if the choice was between saying my ugly face looks like his, or my ugly casting looks like his, I think he would rather have the ugly face).

OK, back to the fishing report. Things slowed down a bit after 9:30, but I landed a couple more in the next half hour. About 10:00 the three guys from the bridge joined me in the hole. Since no one was on the other side and the hole isn't that big, this was rather bad form as it crowded me quite a bit. But I stayed on pride rock and kept on catching. By noon, I had reached 12 for 24, equaling Tom's epic total from last week. But the next two hours were full of futility, with only a couple take downs (nor much action for the three who joined me). Then to top it off, my 8-wt broke in the middle on a missed fish. Maybe I should just go home with an epic day....but wait, I threw my 6-wt Sage in the car at the last minute. All I need is one more fish to beat Tom.

On my way back to the car, I crossed the bridge and saw no fish in the pride rock area, but a few shadows by the eddy on the rip-rap side of the hole. Out comes the six weight and I climb down the rip rap to fish from that side (my buddies that joined me earlier had pretty much crowded me out of the hole on the pride rock side by now). Two or three casts, indicator down, same old story. Number thirteen to hand! But then, why not try for just one more? A few casts, indicator down, repeat, and repeat, and repeat. I hooked 8 more and landed 4 of them on the rip rap side, most of them right in front of the guys who crowded me in my hole. Ah, that was fun (they were nice enough guys, it was just annoying that they squeezed in there). That "one more fish" brought my total for the day to 16 for 32 (not counting unless they were hooked and fighting). Which leads to my question for Tom - What is a word for more than epic?

OK, the details. Started with double beads (10mm and 8mm) and seemed to catch more on the larger bead. Some of the time switched to beadhead black stonefly with a bead below it, and caught fish on both (more on the bead, but quite a few on the stonefly). Fished 5 to 6 feet below the indicator, with two BB splitshot added. Depth is critical. Most of the fish my first two hours were close in front of pride rock. When I started making longer casts, I was having no success. I deepened up by another foot, and fish on. Fish ranged from the low 20s" to a little above 30". I landed one hatchery fish, 29" long. In addition to the steelhead, I landed 15" and 19" cutts and two whitefish. Definitely worth every minute of the 8-hour drive.

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