4-21-05 - I'll take a Team Fishin' Late Spring
Chromers and a Lifetime First for two.
Waters Fished: Oak Creek
Fish Caught: 1 personally
Outing Date: 4-21-05
Air Temp: 60's
Water Temp: 50F
Water Level: 20 CFS and falling rapidly
Water Color: Clear, slightly stained. Visibility approaching 3 feet.
Fish Species: Steelhead, Rainbow Trout
Pattern Fished: Egg Patterns
Pattern Color: Threw lots, no one main color surfaced
Fishing Quality: Good
Chris Froeter contacted me at least a week prior
to our scheduled outing...he was looking for a Team
Fish guided Steelhead trip on the tribs and was wondering if
he was too late to get into some spring action. I told him it could
be tough, but taking the gamble can pay off.
Well, due to scheduling we had to reschedule 2
or 3 times but finally we got a day that worked. The night before
our trip we made the important phone call. Where should we go? The
Root was a obvious safe choice, but if Chris was willing to gamble,
we *could* take a chance and head to Oak Creek in search of fresher
Chris made the final call...he's a gamblin' man.
We met up at Oak Creek about 20 minutes prior to legal fishin' time.
All I had to do was walk to the bridge with the spotlight...the
gamble paid off big time. There were at least 3-4 fish in the stream..and
frankly all you ever need to find is ONE.
We got on the water immediately and waited a minute
for legal fishin' time to commence...there was no way I was going
to chance having another angler even notice there were fish unattended.
While Chris worked the fast water for the 3 or 4 steelies that were
chasing each other around, I worked the downstream bend and got
my lucky skunk break, a stocker trout that had washed down from
the Oak Creek Mill Pond upstream. Well, the urban ponds definitely
have their trout this year!
As the morning progressed Chris worked the fish
methodically and patiently. At one point another angler came along
and started fishing to a fish I had been drifting to right in front
of me. To top it off, he was blatantly trying to floss the fish
- no one needs a 4" bunch of chartruese yarn at the end of
their line unless they're purposely trying to floss. The sight of
it made me sick. "Hell", I thought to myself, "if
you're gonna go out and floss at least be discrete about it damnit".
A couple other anglers were out and about and yes,
there were more fish present downstream. For once, the number of
fish and the number of anglers on Oak Creek were actually well matched!
Chris and I worked the small group of fish for
roughly the first 3 hours of our guide. He hooked up more than once
- I even went into full-on "guide" mode and spotted from
above, calling out the strikes as they occured and trying to communicate
drift changes as needed. Truth be told, buddies would do that for
each other as well...that's what the Team Fish is all about.
Well, Chris wanted to see more than one bend in
the river and the fish were pretty well put down into the deeper
water. He'd gotten his bites and come up empty. We walked downstream,
I pointed out some of the traditional holding spots and explained
why the fish stop there. As we went downstream, I saw movement in
the shallow water and stopped us right there. A fresh fish was on
the move, and if we played our cards right we might get lucky.
The steelhead moved up into a deep slot and held
for a moment. Chris headed downstream, crossed, and got to fishing
her from the far shore. He was lucky enough to hook up once or twice
before she finally caught on and made the move to go upstream. I
saw this move in our chessmatch and quickly countered by running
down the bank to a spot where the stream flow bottlenecked. If she
made the move, there'd be only one place for her to swim upstream
to the next pool, and one way or another she'd have to get by me.
Well, she went for it...my first drift was refused.
I had at best 2 or 3 more casts before I'd have to make the tough
call...jump into the water ahead of her to keep her downstream where
the fishing was easy. Would I have to do it?
NOPE - 2nd drift she hammered my fly...whether
out of aggression or simply the fact that she was fresh (and probably
still had the feed bag on) I won't know. What I do know is that
she threw the hook and returned to her relatively secure resting
spot downstream...right in front of Chris.
I returned to my overhead bankside viewing spot
and slowly figured out where she was holding. This hen was far from
being spooked - she moved several feet on more than one occasion
to nip at Chris's Fly.
And then it happened...Chris's time was up. Not
my guiding time...heck no unless I have another client waiting I'll
stick around as long as a client needs; I'm not a bean counter.
No, the problem was that Chris needed to head into the office. I
relayed the dilema and asked, "What time shall I set the snooze
alarm for?" ;)
"15 minutes" he replied. Turns out he
almost didn't need it...approximately 3 minutes in everything converged
and resulted in a thundering hit followed by an erruption of water
followed by lots of shouting!
The hen was all over the place, but at the same
token confined her runs to the lenght of the slot where she had
been holding. It easly took 5 or 10 minutes to land this boisterous
chromer; when it was all said and done she bolted off as if we had
been mearly a slight delay in her travel plans. Yup, the extra 15
minutes or so had payed off big time for Chris...this was his first
Steelhead. I hope there are many more in his future.
After seeing Chris off, I returned to our initial
pod of fish and really didn't find them. What to do? Well, I got
back to walking the river looking for fish. It was great that Chris
had gotten a steelie; now it was my turn.
I walked the entire creek and didn't sight anything
other than the fish that were already sighted...and were being fished
by other anglers. Would I go without a steelhead for today?
I turned around and headed back upstream...then
I saw the rise. Whatever hit the surface had been subtle about it
and was holding either along side or underneath one of the lunker
structures in the river.
I approached, probaly not stealthfully enough,
thinking that the fish was probably another stocker trout. Maybe
if I could just plunk my fly down in there I'd hook up and have
a little fun.
And now I found myself standing over the spot where
I had seen the rings on the water moments before. I looked into
the water expecting to see nothing..then expecting to dap my fly
on the surface and see what happened next. Instead, there sat a
large tan shape, covered in perfect black circles. Eureka, it was
a steelhead, only a couple feet below me and completely unaware
that I had walked up!
I dropped down my offering which consisted of a
new pattern I had concocted which I'm calling, for now, the yarnback.
Basically, the pattern was a small white egg with a "shellback"
of yarn, purple below and black on top. Two drifts in this fresh
hen bit and took off! She rolled and rolled and ended up fouling
herself on the lead fly...so now I was fighting her sideways. I
jumped into the stream to get a better position on landing this
She'd make a violent run downstream, stop at the
tailout of the pool, rest, then run violently upstream. This whole
fight went for at least 30 minutes. Every time I got here within
a few feet of the net she simply BOLTED.
At the end, she made one more desperate run downstream,
turned, went airborne, and landed in a huge belly flop. When I finally
had here in the net I found my lead fly in her belly and my dropper,
the yarnback, in the roof of her mouth!
I took a couple quick pics and set to the task
of reviving this fish. Two anglers walked past and commented on
the nice looking fish...we chatted a bit about the tough revive
but both felt confident she'd come back strong.
Well, after 45 minutes things were just not working
right. She still labored to breath...if left untouched she'd sit
on the bottom, fins spread wide, gasping, not moving. Even after
5 minutes of being untouched, resting, a fish will usually bolt
when you try to pick it back up. This hen never did.
During the course of my attempts to revive this
hen I considered that I might have to creel her...after 45 minutes
she was actually turning darker around the face, a bad sign that
things aren't going the way we'd want them to. I made the decision
that rather than leave her for dead I would put her to good use.
Once the decision to creel her was made, I kept her wet while taking
color plate images (used for taxidermy) and a few more shots of
her and the rod. This only took a minute or two. I loaded her into
the net and started to make my way out of the stream. Within 15
seconds she stopped breathing. Creeling this fish was indeed the
right decision. It's my hopes to have Rich Benedict mold her - everything
about this hen was pristine, a true trophy fish. She also happened
to be the first TRUE steelhead landed on the 8' 9" Bamboo Rod
Caimi had built specifically for Salmon and Steelhead.
It's somewhat sad to end this report on such a
sour note...I would have much rather seen this hen go back strong
to fight again. Unless I'm forgetting something, this was the only
steelhead I creeled this spring out of MANY fine fish I battled.
C&R by all means, and when necessary, sensible creeling.