Sunday, October 25, 2009

28.5" Steelhead

Well this past weekend was steelhead weekend number three for the fall.  And coincidentally Jens 3rd weekend of steelhead fishing in total. 

We did the usual Friday night run up to the cabin we rented.  The drive seemed long as we drove though  rain, then sleet, and then snow.  We moved our gear from the truck to the cabin and settled in for the night.  Everyone else that we knew were coming up for the weekend would be pulling in later or the next day. 

Saturday we woke, had a hearty breakfast, and hoped we see my buddy Ben from the club soon.  He arrived just as we had fished getting dressed and rigging our fly rods for the day.  The go to a spot where the parking lot wasn't packed. 

Ben and Jen hopped in the truck and on our first parking lot of choice, there was amazingly only one other vehicle there.  Rare for this spot, especially since it was 10:30am.  Guess this is where we were going fishing!  We made the slippery trek down the trail and could see that the river had definitely changed over the past couple of days.  It was up, it was faster, and it was no longer clear.

We knew a particular spot that I was fond of and it could accommodate three of us fishing it at the same time.  We got into position, Ben at the head of the pool, Jen in the middle, and me at the tail.  I tried to make my first cast and caught a tree, just as three old timers across the stream came by.  So I pretended to ignore my situation while we chatted with them for a bit.  They said they this spot to hold few but big steelhead.  I smiled, and kept what I knew of this spot to myself. 

They headed down the trail and Jen made a noise.  She said she missed a fish.  I thought, "whatever" it was only her first cast, and went about undoing my mess from the tree.  Jen again made a noise and claimed to missed it again.  I broke off my line as it was a hopeless feet to try to save my rig, and again Jen said she missed a fish.  Ben and I advised she change how she set the hook and do a strip set instead of a rod set.  I went back to tying on a new fly and this time, Jen got excited and when I looked up she had a steelhead on.  In less then five casts she was fighting a steelhead.  I tossed my rod onto shore and worked my way up to her.  Ben also started to move down to assist as well.

We gave some direction as to what she should do and how to handle the fish and she was executing well.  And then the point came that I got excited, I saw the steelhead come by and realized my net was not big enough to land this one.  After two attempts, I hollered up to Ben that he needed to come down with his net.  Ben was able to get down by me pretty quickly and I stepped back out of their way, all this time Ben and I giving advice and shouting instructions to Jen.  It made several runs downstream and to the opposite bank and then found a spot just feet in front of us but past the deep edge where we couldn't wade over too.  It parked itself there.  Now time usually seems skewed when I get into these situations, but we were at a point where this battle was getting close to being abut 5 minutes long, and the three of us were looking at each other and looking at where the line was going into the muddy water and wondering what to do.  I then thought, the time is now or its going to be refreshed and take another run and we will lose it.  I advised to Jen that she angle and tilt her rod towards the bank and apply a little more pressure.  It worked, and the steelhead began to move.  After about a eight or nine attempts now, Ben netted the fish, and it was NICE.  Jen was sooooo excited and I started taking pictures in case it escaped the net, or fell out of someone's hands.  We did measure it before we took it out of the net for the grip and grin pictures and it measured 28.5" from kipe to tail.  We had great fortune of a great fight, Jen handling herself well for her first encounter with fighting a steelhead, and not screwing up in the unhooking and picture taking.

Jen was able to tell her story later to Mike and Phil over supper and we were all celebrating in her success.  Then we continued celebrating back at the cabin for bit a longer and sharing in other fishing stories.  I'm so proud of her! 

Monday, October 19, 2009

2nd Steelhead weekend

It was hard to stay focused at work on Friday, so I didn't.  I did everything I could to make the day go faster.  Four o'clock came, and I was out of there and headed for home.  I moved the pile of stuff from the living room that packed the night before into the Tahoe.  Ran over to Big 10 where I was to meet Mother Feiker to pick up the fleece windstopper coat and hat that Jen would need that we left behind at the previous weekend steelhead outing.  When I got back, Jen and Mike were ready to roll out of town, and so we did.

We made a couple of stops along the way to refuel, pick up "supplies" and have a bite to eat.  We arrived at our sleeping quarters around 9-ish and popped a beer while we unpacked.  Luckily we unpacked right away as Mike and I had some high-energy conversation and laughs, which kept the pace of our arm curls going at a pretty good pace.  Jen retired around midnight, and we ran out of steam around 2:30am.  At least that is what Jen says.

At way too early an hour Saturday morning, we here a knock at the door.  It's Muffin-top and his wife and they are ready to get the day started.  It was like 7am, and way too early after last night's Leinie-bourban marathon.  But we got our selves reasonably presentable to meet them for breakfast, of which I don't remember much.  After breakfast, we headed back to our room and got our trout pants on and it was decided that Jen would drive us to the river, as it appeared that Mike and I, or maybe really just me, may have been not sober enough to drive yet.  Oops!  I don't remember the drive to the river, but the next thing I knew we were standing in it fishing for steelhead.  It's amazing how standing in 40-degree water with a fly rod in your hand can sober a guy up so quickly.  The water was a .10" lower then the weekend before and a tad slower, and still very clear.

It was a nice day.  The kind of day that one who grouse hunts typically wishes for.  No wind, light cloud cover, 40's for a high, perfect for walking at a slow pace with a 20 gauge in hand.  We checked our rigging and our flies and started our nymphing. 

We covered some good water and Jen still seems to be a natural at learning the basics for fly-fishing.  Over all, the day didn't seem to be delivering too many steelheads to too many people.  But I was pleasantly happy.  By the end of the day I had caught three smolt.  Which to many, is trivial, but to me it was the end of a two year streak of catching nothing in the steelhead family.  This made me feel confident that the changes I had made in my rigging this year was indeed going in the right direction.

At dusk we headed back up the trail to the Tahoe, and then back to the cabin to get out trout pants off before going out to eat.  I am sure it has something to do with being in the outdoors all day, but there is nothing better then a heavy sweatshirt, a burger, and greasy appetizers to end the day.  We had a few people join us for supper.  I had just had a bailey's and coffee placed in front of me when Peter came in and joined us, eager to hear the days reports as he would start his three-day steelhead tour in the morning.  Ole and Bucky also stopped by a little after Peter and shared their fishing encounters that they had that day.

We got a chance to sleep in this time, as Muffin-top and his wife had left town yesterday.  And leisurely worked our way through the morning steelhead routine.  We tried a different landing then the day before to go fishing.  Both days, the spots we had picked was based purely on the number of cars at the landings rather then any skillful predictions of where the fish would be.  We just wanted to be away from the crowds.  Turns out, there was a lot of good water we covered that day as well. 

And then it happened.  I was working a nice bend pool.  I covered the top two-thirds of it and started into the tail of the pool.  A half-hour of fishing with nothing to get excited about.  I drifted my line down in the tail and my indicator did a fishing move so I raised my rod, not sure if it was a rock or a fish.  As soon as I had tension the steelhead I hooked was tight to the line!  It moved up and to the far side of the pool, then over to the close side towards me.  I could see that it was a dark steelhead, and that it looked to be about 20" or so.  Then it turned and screamed downstream and in about ten yards of its dash, my line popped and went limp.  My 5-second rodeo with a steelhead had ended.  I had also lost both my beadhead X-legs nymph and the yarn fly dropper.  The 3x G-max floro was cut cleanly off.  At least it wasn't my knot the did me in I thought to myself.  And while I may have cursed out loud at the loss off the fish, I quickly smiled and was happy that I got the chance to finally fight a steelhead after my long dry spell.

To add to my count, I managed to land another smolt later that day a little further down river.  And as the day came to an end, I had to convince Jenny that we did have to leave so that we didn't get home too late.  She was enjoying herself and really wanted to stay.  Eventually she came out and we left the river around 4:30pm.

We were greeted by your classic north woods "old timers" smoking a Backwoods cigar at the parking lot where we changed out of our trout pants.  He updated us on the scores and his analysis of the Packer game as well as the Viking game.  And we returned the favor by updating him with our analysis of the day's fishing.  After a bit of chatting, we hopped in the truck and headed for home leaving the old timer in my rear view mirror puffing on his cigar while he waited as it got closer to sunset before he wet his line.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Club Steelhead weekend

Jen and I arrived in Brule around 8:30pm, dropped off some stuff at the cabin, and went in to Twin Gables for supper since we saw Bob's truck there.  We found them (Anderson, Mother Feiker, Ben, Ryan, and Andy) in the back bar, watching the Twins-Yankees game.  Ben had pictures of the steelhead he caught earlier in the day and it was a very nice one at that.  Jen and I bellied up to the bar and ordered supper and watched the game.  We also chatted with Dee, the owner, and met her boyfriend during the commercial breaks.

After watching the Twins lose, we headed to the Kro-bar to see what was happening. 
I ran into a few more friends that I knew and did some catching up with them (Joe, Ash, Grizzly, Buzzy, and Shane).  It was great to see them and rib each other a little and share what little intel we had gathered on the current steelhead situation.

We (Mother Feiker, Ben, Andy, and myself) head back to the cabin after closing the bar down and went to bed around 3am.

We were up and getting ready to go to Twin Gables about 7:30am or so, and there it was...about a 1/4" of show on the ground.  Jen and I were excited by the fresh snow and were actually looking forward to spending the day in it.  It really made the bright colored leaves pop even more. 

After breakfast headed back to the cabin to get ready for fishing for the day.  The plan was that we park at two different landings and walk in opposite directions to where the other was parked, making our fishing groups smaller.  Jen, Andy, and myself in one truck, Mother Feiker, Anderson, and Ben in the other truck.  This was Jens first time going Steelhead fishing and it was no warm up to it, the weather and water was in full "normalcy" as far as steelhead weather goes.  There was  no easing her into it.  For the record the river was 42 degrees, air temp started around 31 and the high for the day was around the low 40's and our guides kept freezing up all day.  It was cold, and windy, leaves of red and orange and yellows were floating in the low clear river, and it was beautiful.

For some reason, I couldn't stay on my feet this weekend.  I fell three different times, so I was nursing a sore knee and elbow, but the back feels more aligned then when I started the day.  Go figure!  And today is the best my back has felt in a week.  Guess I should fall on my ass more often when my back is feeling crappy.   

Andy tagged into a colorful steelhead with bright red on it, and it broke off quickly.  He also got a strike in the same area before that.  When it happened, Jen was resting on the bank and got to watch the 15- seconds of excitement right in front of her and got to see the steelhead in the water racing around. 

We crossed paths with the boys half way through for a bit, had some beef sticks for lunch.  Anderson caught a 22" steelhead out the same area that Andy fought his. Anderson's was a bright chrome steelie, fresh from the lake.

Near the end of the day, Jen did get a strike, but that was it for her.

We warmed up back at the cabin and Tony was there making a feast for the cold hungry crew.  Ham, wild rice, cranberry sauce, salmon dip, mashed potatoes.  It was a full holiday meal!

Joining us for dinner were Jay (who also caught a couple steelhead that day), also two of Tony's friends from the area, Troy and Rick.  Then, Mike from the Fly Angler and his buddy joined up for some food and friendly conversation.

Around 10pm Mother Feiker, Ben, and myself headed for the Kro to see what local characters were out and about.  Anderson joined us later after Rick left the cabin.  I chatted with Dee's boyfriend about our day and his recent bow hunting experiences while he checked ID's at the door.  The Bugs were in full swing rocking the house.  Over the years, that band has definitely improved.

We ran into Mike and his buddy at Twin Gables for breakfast, as well as Big Dog and Greg Lonke.  We shared some status reports and predictions for the day along with a couple of laughs.  After breakfast, the boys headed off fishing while Jen and I headed over to Duluth to spend the afternoon with Chad and Sarah, before heading home for the Twins game.  It had been a while since I was there last so we thought it was a good time to do that before I get into my "serious" steelhead hunting mode over the next  three or four weekends to come.

Jen did say that even though the weather was less then ideal, and didn't catch anything, that she had fun and might even do it again.  I had a great time with her as well as seeing all my old and new friends.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hanging around.

So I opted to stay home this weekend instead of steelheading for two reasons.  First, I needed another appointment with the Chiropractor.  Second, I wanted to attend a friend of mines' surprise birthday.  In between the two, I had six hours to kill.

So as I left the Chiropractor, the truck just drove all by itself to the Fly Angler instead of going home.  Mike was at the shop, pretty much running it all by himself.  So I pulled up a chair at the rod building table and was offered a cup of coffee.  Clients came and went, I chatted with some about fishing and others about the fly rods they were looking at.  In between, Mike and I got to catch up on the past couple of months stuff as well as talk about a potential salt water trip.  Two hours into my visit, Jenny calls me up.  Hm, I wasn't sure how this was going to go over, but I answered and she said she would come up to the shop to join us.  I am on my third copy of coffee at this point and was enjoying chilling out.  I mean really, if ya aren't out fishing, hanging out at the fly shop, posing as the fly shop dog is a good second best thing.  Jen joined us shortly after our call with her Caribou Coffee in hand. 

More customers were coming and going, so I fitted Jen with some Sims breathable waders and Chota wading boots.  She said she had enjoyed our summer trips and was really looking forward to doing more.  So what the heck.  We dipped into our respective minnow funds to finance her new gear.  I am sure she will be happy with it and spend some time in them soon.

We hung out for a little while longer then we had headed for home to grab a quick lunch and the directions to the party.  It was a good way to spend five hours to avoid all the nags of home, without going too far away from home.  And I am pretty sure Mike appreciated us hanging around, with the added contribution we made to the stores profit margin for the day.