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Posts Tagged ‘Steelhead’

Maple Leaf and I put a few hundred miles on my truck this past trip all for another chance to make magic happen. This was the third trip with Maple Leaf this year. He’s caught on to the program and has adapted well to the early morning wake up calls and driving in the dark through crappy ass weather. In short, he’s made “The List”.

By mid-October you have to cover a lot of ground if you want to pick up just one more fish before you shut it down for the year. About 9 hours of usable daylight is all you have to work with and you use every bit of it. When you’re out there you have to believe that the next cast is going to be the one.  It’s the fuel that keeps you out on the water, hiking the trails, wading the waters, and making the casts.

Sometimes 9 hours turns into a long hike and plenty of casting practice. That’s okay. It’s part of the experience. Sometimes everything falls into place and persistence pays off.

Maple Leaf told me before the trip he was quitting everything else and focusing just on fishing. I think this last trip just took him over the edge. He went 2 for 3 on this trip and I helped him land the biggest of the day.

Turns out Maple Leaf is great behind the lens. Me on the other…not so good.

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Stumbled on this tonight. Looks to be a new show with Steve Apple from Rollcast Productions. You remember Steve…Fishizzle and Hustle & Fish. This episode he fishes with Tom Larimer of Larimer Outfitters on the Deschutes.

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dloop

Tuber and I have been at this two-hander thing for little over two years now. Since early 2007 to be more precise. We both started out picking up more rod than we needed for the waters we fished. Back then we didn’t know better but we didn’t care. We had to get out there and see what it was all about.

We both came at it from different angles. I stumbled upon two-handers on the internet and he was lucky enough to have two buddies who were a year ahead. Now it consumes us and we can’t stop talking about it.

We are probably the only two people who have ever thrown a two-hander on the Anchor, Bird, and Ship. I know I am probably the only person who has worked the two-hander at the peak of sockeye season in Southcentral. Not exactly the proper stage but it’s water and it was what we had to work with. If you’ve ever fished those waters you know it doesn’t take much more than a nine footer to cover every inch of water and then some. To say the two-hander was overkill would be an understatement. The Anchor was probably the worst place to apply the art. Most of the time we just flipped the tip. Bird and Ship weren’t much better but at least you could stretch one out there once and a while when the tide was in. We usually ended up fishing water others wouldn’t or couldn’t.

We got some stares and some funny looks for sure. Thirteen feet of rod and fly line thick enough to winch a jeep out of the mud flats is strange if you didn’t know any better. It was fun and we felt like pioneers.

Lucky for us we’ve been able to find some proper water to apply the down and across. Like the stretch of water we go back to every spring and the new piece I discovered this year. And the old water that’s new water because we can now look at things from an entirely different angle.

This two-hander business has changed everything. I find myself fishing the single-hander and throwing spey casts about half the time now. It’s opened up new water and has made those tough spots easier to fish. Now it seems as though there is no piece of water we can’t fish.

At first we knew very few people who ever used a two-hander on the waters we fished. We never saw another person swinging the big stick. Now it seems more and more folks are toting along a two-hander. There aren’t many but it’s growing. I’ve never actually seen someone outside of our crew making the casts and taking the steps. It’s equivalent to a big foot sighting I suppose. I’ve seen a few pictures but have yet to run into someone on the water working the two-hander.

I think that is cool.

A little over two years into it and I’ve managed to collect a few things. A lot of it is gear but a big chunk has been knowledge and experience. I started out barely chucking the head of a Rio Skagit 450, a 10 foot cheater, and a 10 foot T-14 tip on a Sage 7136 Z. I now know why the 450 wasn’t cutting it for me on the 7136 and what it takes to chuck a giant bunny leech (if you don’t know yet I’ll give you a clue – short, fat and more grains per foot). Now I’ve got the 7136 loaded with Airflo Ridge, Compact Skagits heavy enough to launch a dead chicken, and a shit ton of zip lock bags of custom made sinktips. I’ve also managed to pick up two more sticks more appropriate for the waters I fish. The 6126 Z helps bring some smaller water in to play and makes tangling with the everyday fish that much more fun. A new addition, the 6110 Z, makes brushy bank channels and brushy freestones where trout like to hide accessible and a blast for swinging sculpins and leeches.

A few thousand casts later and I can now make the cast more often to get me fishing. I know a little more about how to fish a swinging fly and not just leave it up to chance.  What keeps me truck’n along is  looking for more pieces of water and opportunities close to home to swing up more rainbows, more steelhead and that first king on the two-hander.

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Before I ever made my first cast with a two-hander I saw pictures of this place. Since then I’ve seen a lot of pictures of folks walking the banks, casting flies, and being lucky enough to hook into a ghost or two.

My timing’s a little off but I thought since I was in the neighborhood I would stop by and take a quick look.

Makes me wish it was winter and I was waist deep in it.

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Back in December I picked up on Speypages that Ed Ward was working with Jeff Mishler on a new film project. This looks to be a teaser for the upcoming film project. I lifted this from Simms.

simmsfishing.com

“Skagit Master” Trailer

Discover the secrets of Skagit Casting and the man driving its evolution. Visit Skagitmaster.com beginning August 2009 to purchase “Skagit Master–Featuring Ed Ward”.

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Put a few hundred miles on the rig this past trip. An exploratory outing to try to find a few more good pieces of water to add to the others cause you can never have too many.

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A little rain and snow to keep things interesting.

First piece of water turned out to be a lemon. With the low cfs there wasn’t much fishable water. It took less than an hour to swing through all of it. I figured it was time to move on when my magic fly from the last trip and the trip before that got hung up and I ended up having to break it off. Damn it…I loved that fly.

After eyeballing a few more runs and never taking another cast, I decided to move to a completely different area. Things just didn’t feel right. I’ve learned over the years that you have to learn the habits of the river and the fish that swim within it. There are places that are only productive under very particular circumstances and one has to be mindful of things like the weather, snowpack, clarity, discharge, pressure, fish habits, angle of the sun, etc… Things other than what you have tied to the end of the leader matter more. Best fly in the world won’t catch fish if there are no fish around to catch.

Another hour or so behind the wheel found me staring into a sweet piece of water to apply the down and across. For a moment there I thought I had it all to myself. Upon closer examination I made out two figures off in the distance at the head of the run. It looked like they were high sticking indicators.

I watched them as I made my way down to the river’s edge. They never made any attempts to move down the run. It looked like they were working their way up. Sweet! Maybe I’d have the run all to myself. Even after they spotted me they never made a move to work the water down below.

I strongly believe in courtesy and it goes a long way when fishing with others. So I politely asked if they minded me dropping below them. They said they didn’t so I did.

With the rod tucked under my arm I looked over the piece of water as I dug into my pack for my fly box. The run had a very distinct feature at the head which I won’t disclose for reasons you’ll know in a minute. Scattered throughout I could make out a spot or two that I figured could hide a fish or two or three or four.

Working from near to far I worked the head around trying my best to fish the fly around those fishy looking spots. Not more than 5 casts into things the line snapped tight against my finger and pulled the loop out from under it and I ended up slapping the running line against my hand during the hook set. Ouch!!! Short while into it the hooked pulled free. Only thing I saw was a big roll and a big tail before the line went limp.

Hell yeah!!! THAT SHIT WAS AWESOME!!!

I didn’t notice until sometime later when my heart rate and the breathing mellowed out that my hand hurt like a sum-a-ma-bitch. Back of the hand just below the pinky a nice little welt running the full width of my hand was there as a sharp reminder of what just went down.

So I backed up to the starting line and began working it again. It didn’t happen until a little bit after the first and a little further downstream. Nothing super violent like the last take, just a steady hanging up of the fly on something. I waited for some movement before letting the loop slide through my fingers. It took a lot of control on my part to have confidence that when the line came tight and I pulled back the fish would be there.

I waited…the fish was there.

This one I had on longer than the first. A heavy fish that put a serious bend in the 7wt and peeled some line off the reel. I was able to gain some line only to have the fish take it back and then some. Once again the fish came off after a strong head shake, turn, and a roll. Damn…I’m beginning to hate that roll.

Confidence was high at this point despite the two mishaps. I reeled in some line, checked the fly, and began swimming the fly from right bank to left bank again. I worked the entire run. For the next couple of hours I made several passes with a handful of different flies.

Nothing.

Confidence had dipped a bit but I was still hopeful. Due back home in a few hours I decided to make one last run at it. Another fly change and back to the top. By this time my casting had become progressively better. Working from river left I was able to throw in mostly Snap T, a healthy bit of Perry Poke, and a Cackhanded Double Spey or two. That brought a big grin to my face from ear to ear.

The next fish happened a dozen casts in just a few feet shy of the fly resting just below me. I had waded out to above my knee hoping to slow the fly down in a little seam directly below me. The take was solid with no need to set the hook. I waited for that dreaded roll and it happened but the fish stayed on. I could tell the fish wasn’t very big and was able to land it without too much trouble.

I struggled with taking the picture and it must have shown. Not easy when you are in a foot or two of water and keeping the fish’s best interest in mind. One of the guys hollered and asked if I needed help.

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Much better picture than the one I tried to take.

Checking the time I figured I had time to work the rest of the way through. The next tug happened at a strange spot. There was a section three quarters of the way down that started shallow on the far bank and stayed that way for some distance. I never figured that a fish would be resting anywhere in there. It seemed too shallow and too swift. I fired my casts into that water and didn’t bother to throw a big mend in there. I figured it would gain enough depth as the fly swung around. There was a rock making a disturbance on the surface. It wasn’t visible but you could tell it was there.

To my surprise, hiding there, in front of the rock was the fish of the trip. As the fly passed some distance in front of the rock, I felt something chewing on the fly. I let the loop slide through my fingers and waited for the line to come tight to the reel. I didn’t pull back immediately and waited for a steady tug-tug-tug and a bit of line to come off the reel. That’s when I pulled back and felt the weight of the fish.

I was lucky to land the fish. It nearly kicked my ass and when I finally got a hold of the leader and laid my rod on the ice to tail it, the fish broke free and nearly took my rod with it. With the leader in my hand the second time I finally was able to get a firm grip. Once again those kind fellas came over to give me a hand.

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Very grateful those two fishers were kind enough to let me fish the run and for lending me a hand. The only picture of that fish before it went back into the water. No measurements. Afterwards I thanked them for the assistance and kindly gave up the run to them. Just returning the favor.

That right there made the long drive home that much easier. Felt good to finally get a proper fish on the 7136 Z. Still playing that one back in my head.

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For the past few months I’ve been following “The Bucket – monthly diatribe from a two-handed, fly rod junkie” by Jeff Mishler in Salmon Trout Steelheader. For someone like me just starting out it’s been helpful to say the least. For the past two years I’ve been scouring all forms of media to learn as much as I can. Nothing can take the place of river time but when opportunities are few and far between you immerse yourself in the knowledge and experience of others.

For now I’ve settled on Skagit Casting because it’s what makes sense where I live and the fish I pursue. This month, Mishler writes about fishing with Ed Ward.

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Salmon Trout Steelheader, January 2009 - amatobooks.com

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Salmon Trout Steelheader, January 2009 - amatobooks.com

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