low water, heavy rains, melting snow, rising waters, rapids, boulders, flooding, fast currents, smooth waters, dropping levels, ups and downs, burbling, roaring, dancing, pounding, lapping, grinding, the flow of rivers and life
The peaceful Fall pace of the river. Then, one wanted more water, more cover for the fish.
I ventured down to the Oregon Coast to fly fish a coastal river for Winter Steelhead. The river had come up the day before several feet and was expected to drop and clear. The prevailing theory of optimism is the high water entices the sea run trout to push up river and then hold in a stretch as the water drops. The water did drop ever so slightly and the color never made it too that ideal ‘steelhead green’. The off-color, brownish, tea color and the heavy currents made for difficult presentations. The pockets and slots had disappeared on most of the river.
One spot beckoned as the river widened out and the surface turmoil was reduced to a chattering, busy swirl of surface disturbances. Picture the water flowing away from you but at the same time there is a horizontal back and forth of movement across the top…
Many casts and mends waiting for the tug, the pause in the line, some sign of a silver rocket on the other end. Not this time. All beautiful and soothing to the mind. Like a soothing mental bath that eases the mind, but does not dampen the senses.
A pencil drawing of a Spey fly with the trailing stinger hook. The Steelhead is enticed, provoked, seduced intoengulfing the fly and upon the take turning and jetting away. The stinger hook tries to ensure a more assured hook up with the metal head, steel jawed piece of flexing muscle.
This fly was tied by my son Tony. The same one that drew the pencil sketch above years ago. There is a real, visible sense of the artistic here. Does the fish appreciate that? No…simply predation. Provoked to consume….a gentle way of saying ‘to kill’ another in the food chain.
One of the primary tools for the quest. In this instance, a two hander…a spey rod…as opposed to the ‘normal’ one handed fly rod. Different skill sets to learn. Greater potentials in presentation: distance in casting. Notice the pieces of wood that are now high and dry? They were submerged and the forces of the current have stripped the bark into fans, feathers……..
It has been awhile since I have aggressively pursued sea run trout..Steelhead. I did for many years with a single handled rod (normal fly rod) and did well. Somehow, I got caught up in the machinations of the two handed rod and immediately stopped catching Steelhead. Paying my dues? Hmm? Not sure. I lost focus and intuitively lost interest. Now, I feel I must justify the expenses of gear and catch/release a Steelhead. You will notice I have no pics of a Steelhead and SwittersB to display. Remember my resolutions? Time management, focus, location/presentation, desire.
Oh my, I hope some of you weren’t looking or something different? Before you leave though, admit that the curves of this hook and the enticing flare of the hackle lends itself a seductive quality that is not only pleasing to the tier, the fly fisher, but also the powerful Steelhead.
The Pink Panther (Jack Hagan, Portland, Oregon Pattern) here was tied on an Alex Jackson Spey Hook (Daiichi 2052 nickel). The Edge Bright abdomen positively glows. Dyed Guinea Fowl hackle lends color to the thorax area. A beautiful Steelhead pattern. Attraction, Excitation to provoke a response.
Photography/Macro: The curves of the Lamson Guru reel and the Rio Skagit Spey Line glow in the sun light. The neon quality of the orange 30# braid backing shows through the side ports of the spool. Precision quality, especially in the right hands.
Todd Moen of Catch Magazine fame put together this video of a Hannah Belford in Northern B.C. running a guide service and showing some nice skills while pursuing Steelhead. At 9:50 to 10:00 minutes is what one lives for swinging flies. Hannah Belford is truly inspiring as an angler. A nice, inspiring video by Moen too….holds your attention. Check it out.
Hannah Belford, British Columbia, Spey Angler in Steelhead Dreams
No excitor colors here of hot pinks, blues or orange. Just basic black and white over a silver tinsel body. Swung through cold, clear ‘traveling’ waters of Winter, perhaps it will incite a follow and a take from a fish on the move. Certainly a Summer pattern too when subtle incites or follows a bigger fly presentation.
H/t to Horatio Nailknot/FB in pointing me to this pointed piece about man’s meddlesome ways with Wild Fish via hatcheries and cherry-picked science:
“For reasons that have little to do with biological health, or even sanity, the Obama Administration and key members of Congress think this is a swell idea. Hatcheries suck because they’ve masked a staggering loss of biological diversity and abundance. With a century of hatchery experimentation in the rearview mirror, nearly everything has been lost for Pacific salmon in the Lower 48, including a grip on reality. Most weeks of salmon season here in the Columbia Basin, it’s possible to track down a forecast from some misguided guide, federal mouthpiece, blogger or outdoor pundit chortling about the “near record returns of kings over Bonneville Dam.” This is so patently false it shouldn’t even qualify as a delusion.” DrakeMag
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be
satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”