I meandered my way back home today around 3:30 PM or so, and although I missed my girls like crazy and was very happy to see them, I am literally scrambled eggs mentally from the fishing. The last four days were a cool reminder of why it is probably a good thing that the closest steelhead fishing is still just a little too far a drive (4 hours n change) for me to do on a regular basis, as these fish just plain make me crazy. In all honesty, I can totally see how some people make their pursuit a lifelong passion, there just isn't anything that runs into freshwater that compares to the panicked fight of a fresh chromer. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that if I were to let the bug take me over entirely, I would probably wind up divorced, broke, crazed, and homeless living out of my truck collecting cans for gas money just to get my fix, yes folks, it is that bad.
Back to reality and my senses, what an interesting few days on the Salmon River. I was graciously asked by my friend Chris, whom you all might remember lives on the cape in striper heaven (not stripper heaven), and manages Fishing The Cape. Chris is fortunate to have a very kind brother who happens to have a house not too far from the Salmon River, and they have been making the pilgrimage northwest yearly for some time now. When the opportunity presented itself to meet up with Chris and share some river time with him, I jumped at the chance.
|The Steelhead Wagon|
Chris left the cape on Thursday around 6 PM and kept me posted on his progress as he headed west. Around 8 PM or so I got the text that he was on the Mass Pike, and I hopped in my already packed truck, and headed north in hopes of intercepting him in the Westfield area. As luck would have it, our timing was pretty good and we stopped at the Pattersonville Rest Stop, where we needed a quick break from the drive. We motored on and made good time, arriving at the house around 12:30 AM We unpacked, had a beer (or two), exchanged flies and then hit the rack around 1:30 or so. We decided that we weren't going to get up at first light, and opted to sleep in a bit, get out around 10 or so and poke around the river a bit.
Little did we know, a cold front had followed us in and the fishing ended up being very slow where we were. We bounced around in the lower river for the better part of the day, I was swinging flies primarily and although I had 3 good pulls, I ended the day with nothing to show for it. Chris on the other hand, scored our only fish that day, and it was a very nice dark and colored specimen.
|Could It Be A Rainbow??|
We licked our wounds, and decided to head home for the day, only to regroup and get set for our day in the lowest reaches of the river on Saturday. Prior to leaving the house, I conjured up a nice beef stew in the crock pot, fresh with grass fed aged beef, potatoes, carrots onions and garlic. When we got home, the house was filled with a welcoming aroma, and it wasn't long before pure gluttony ensued. After too much food, and too little beer, we hit the rack and called it a night, day two was going to be a long one, and we were getting up really early to boot so it was especially important that we had our batteries fully charged.
|Dinner The Right Way|
We got to the Douglaston Salmon Run as the sun was slowly rising, this day was going to be a good day, but on another level. We covered the entire run, starting down low by the lake with nothing to show for it, later meanding our way up river, which for me despite the lack of action was really cool as I had never really explored the entire area. I went 0-3 on the swing once again, and later lost a really large fish that went completely nuts jumping 6 feet in the air before coming unglued. Chris on the other hand, managed a nice steelhead early in the day, and he saved us from taking a donut once again.
After once again licking our wounds, we headed home and had another banner dinner via the crock pot waiting for us. Chris's white chicken chili was on the menu, boy did it hit the spot after a miserably cold and windy day. Shortly after dinner, Chris' buddy Jeff arrived and added a third to our duo. Jeff is a solid guy and he was a great addition to the festivities. Jeff had been to the house and the river several times before, so what was in store was nothing new for him.
A funny little thing happened while we were traversing the runs in the DSR. So here I am working a nice seam, when these two guys walk up behind me. At first I thought they were just waiting me out for the spot, so I just kept fishing. But this wasn't to be the case, the bigger guy starts walking toward me and I am starting to wonder if a confrontation is about to ensue. The big guy says, "Hey where did you get your my sling pack from"? A little perplexed, I stated the obvious trying not to be overly sarcastic. You see, my buddy Mike Schmidt came out this summer and was sporting this totally bad ass sling pack by Orvis, only problem was it wasn't available so I had to settle for the lesser model, which did fit the bill for the time but wasn't what I was after. When I learned that the pack was coming out, I had ole Chris track one down for me and he brought it with.
|Orvis Digital Camo Guide Sling. Aces!|
Well, come to find out, the guy walking up to me was Sean Combs from Orvis, and he was the guy who designed this particular piece of gear, pretty cool to say the least. We talked fish, the pack and other things for a few, and even have mutual contacts about the fly fishing world. Sean was even kind enough to straighten the pack out for me, as I was wearing it on the wrong shoulder. Talk about feeling like a toolbox! I may have more to divulge on this little gem at a later date, but for now, the pack is just plain awesome. If you want to hear some more about it, check out Cameron's review of the pack over at the Fiberglass Manifesto.
Sunday came and we headed for greener pastures this time, and it definitely paid off. Despite the crowds, we managed to have quite a good day, some better than others. This was to be Chris's big day, not only did he have the hot hand, but he also got the fish of the trip.
|Chris Working A Likely Seam|
We all seemed to hook up this day, but Chris seemed to do so more often, and landed many more than Jeff or I (hooked a bunch but none were to see the net for me). About mid day after working this one particular run over pretty good, it happened, and if you read any of my older posts from fishing Cape Cod, you all know where I am going with this.
You see, Chris refers to me as his lucky charm, every time we fish together, he inevitably catches something rather large. I know, you must think that must suck for me, but actually it is pretty awesome. I am certain that we all have persons whom we have this connection, some of my friends are on the other end of the fence when we go trout fishing, sort of like I am in this case, so I am sure it's all relative so to speak. Aside from this day, I have been witness to Chris's two largest Striped Bass on the flats, and now his largest steelhead as well. I guess you could say that I may very well be his lucky charm, or better yet his camera man, net tender, or on the water support network.
Well when Chris hooked this fish, all bets were off and the nets stayed on the bank. When I got one good look at the fish, I knew that this was going to be a full on beach job involving some interesting moves as the two nets we were sporting just weren't going to cut it.
When the beast was tamed, the three of us just sat there dumbfounded for a while, in amazement of what was in front of us. Granted, this isn't the biggest steelhead ever caught, but it was the biggest that three of us had seen in person, and for that moment time stood still. After a pile of pictures, we taped the buck out and the measurements were 34 x 17, putting this guy somewhere in the 13-14 pound range.
|You Think He's Happy?|
After the moment passed, we all took turns hooking fish, but once again Chris seemed to be the hot hand, landing a good number of his hook ups while Jeff and I kept getting our asses handed to us. I hooked, played and lost a fish that was pretty close to the equal of Chris' buck, but as stated it just never panned out, after a few good leaps and runs the big boy came unglued. By days end, we were all satisfied with our luck and decided we would most likely hit this area again the next day. Another night of stews, beers and fly tying and we called it a night.
Today seemed to be an extension of Sunday afternoon. To say we started where we left off was an understatement; it was a morning to remember. Right out of the gates till about 10:30 AM it was pretty much mayhem. Chris didn't skip a beat and was once again top dog just catching steelhead like it was his job, and some nice one's to boot.
Another large one in the books and then it was just a daisy chain for him all morning, Jeff and I even managed some fish and hook ups too. I think I ended the morning like 2 for 9, blowing up 3 of the largest steelhead I think that I have ever hooked. These fish today meant business, and were all red hot; tail walking, jumping ripping line through the water column like somebody tearing construction paper; pure insanity and I couldn't get enough of it.
|Jeff With Some Steelhead Love|
The moment of the day actually involved yours truly for a change, I know surprising, right? I was working this fast run when I hooked a heater, an absolute fresh silver missile that just went nuts. After a few jumps, I somehow managed to stay attached, and this fish just took off like it was shot from a cannon, almost as if it wanted to go back to the lake for the winter. Down the entire pool across the river twice, the fight seemed to be near over, not once, but three times. Right when we thought we had the chance to net this guy, it bolted down river and I had to give chase, and this time I was not losing this fish or getting broken off; I was determined to put this fish in the net, and there was no stopping me. Heck, I even fell down on a pile of rocks playing this fish, getting back up immediately the whole time with the fly rod high and tight, never letting pressure off this fish. After traversing two four foot drop offs, two hang ups on large rocks in some fast current, and a bunch of screaming runs across the river, I managed to net this fish after about a 150 yard dash. Luckily for me, Chris was there following me the entire way and graciously netted my fish and snapped some great photos. This was to date, the biggest I had landed on this particular river at just shy of the magic 30 inch mark. I know it is not a giant, but for me this fish was a small milestone and it was a truly awesome experience.
|Great Way To End The Trip|
What made it even better was sitting there in the river with this fish, admiring it's beauty and the fight it gave, something words just can't describe. Pictures just don't do justice to the untouched chromer that lay before us, something those who hold these beautiful fish regularly know all to well. Around 11 AM I meandered back to my truck, geared down and made the trek home. The entire drive my mind was racing thinking about how and when I could get back to steelhead country. It's safe to say I'm hooked on these guys bad, can't believe I took such a hiatus from fishing for them for so long. Now you can probably understand what I meant by my mind is like scrambled eggs.
Now that the trip is over, reality has settled in and I am back on the vise as I type this, for I have several orders to complete. The blog will be pretty quiet in the next few days/week, and my days off will not involve any fishing, tying solely to catch up on the pile before me. Here are a few more pictures from the trip, god I can't wait to get back, hopefully December comes quickly, but then again if I get these flies done I just might be able to sneak in a suicide run before Thanksgiving ;)......