12-03-05 - Pet Fly Smackdown III, 2005, The Pennsylvania Steelhead Storm
Waters Fished: 20 Mile Creek, 16 Mile Creek, 12 Mile Creek
Fish Caught: 11 personally
Outing Date: 12-3-05
Weather: Clouds, Occasional Snow, Winds to 20 MPH
Air Temp: 20's, rising to around 32F
Water Temp: 33F in Elk Creek
Water Level: low
Water Color: All Pretty Clear
Fish Species: Steelhead
Pattern Fished: Tucker Nymph
Pattern Color: As Per Pattern
It's December 3rd, the 3rd Annual Pet Fly Smackdown.
If you haven't yet heard of this, you need to play catchup and read
all about 2003 and 2004
This year, we took the PFS on the road to Erie,
PA. Sure, our flies can catch trout, but exactly how effective would
they be against what many consider the premier freshwater gamefish,
the Steelhead? Not much was changed for the 2005
Pet Fly Smackdown Rules.
The Smokin' Tahoes were well represented this year, comprising 4 of the 7 total contestants who competed, including Jim (MS2), Leanne (a newbie this year), and Randy (aka. Drag-Free), as well as myself. This year we were sorry to miss Matt (MJ), Fred (FMA) and Dan (Fruitbat) who were unable to join us. We returned, champion's rod in hand, to defend out 2004 title and fish the Tucker Nymph. As is customary, last year's champions should fish their winning pattern :)
Our perennial nemesis, the Red Hats, sent 2 representatives to PA this year. Team Captain Neil (aka. Red Hat) was unable to attend due to travel time-constrains. Tim "The Enchanter" didn't have to go far as he now resides in OH! This year, the "who came the farthest" title goes to Brennon, aka. Flapper, Mountain Goat Boy, B, T-Bone and a slew of other nicknames, who traveled all the way from the twin cities in MN. Rumors had it that Mike, the infamous "Arctic Snow Monkey" would be attending and coming onboard as a Red Hat...untimely illness kept him home in bed. The Naughtons? MIA I guess.
The Fat Tribe, a consistent last-place finisher, arrived on a diet of "SkinnyMitch" and "FatMatt". However, even though "SkinnyMitch" was somewhere in PA, we never saw him on the streams. Apparently, he too found himself ill and unable to compete. Rich, aka. "FAT" or "The Fatman" is somewhere in France, Greg was unable to attend at the last minute, and as Greg is normally in charge of the SMACKDOWN LOGO and T-Shirts, we all agreed that while missed, we'd make due without 'em this year. The Heathens? Well, they didn't have a ride!!! So, for 2005, the Fat Tribe would be a team of ONE!
We all met around 7:00 AM at the diner in the Presque Isle Best Western for official entries, arrangements for end of the day meeting and feasting, and some breakfast! Considering the current weather and road conditions, it was decided that we would forego our traditional campfire and potluck, instead meeting up at 6:30 PM at the Golden Corral for scoring, awards, and again, EATING!
As soon as folks were finished with breakfast and fly entries were placed "in the box" folks just disappeared. The Red Hats, in traditional fashion, simply vanished into the waters...not a word on where they'd fish or if they'd even be back! FatMatt was heading to 20 Mile Creek. Considering he was fishing alone and apparently had a, um, "float" downstream yesterday, I figured it might be a bit safer for him if we tagged along. Besides, I really wanted to show Jim and Leanne 20 Mile Creek - it's just gorgeous. At times, it can be really productive too - definitely worth a look. If it sucks, we're outta there!
I must admit, we weren't in any HUGE hurry, afterall we ARE the 2004 Champions and we DID pretty much outfish our competition yesterday. While Fatmatt had hightailed it to 20 Mile straight from breakfast, we geared up, prepped for the day, and got to the stream about an hour later. Relaxed, confident, this is how our 2005 tournament should be!
We geared up, set up a new rig that Randy suggested, hiked in and got into the crystal clear water! SWEET! Twenty Mile Creek is one of the larger streams this side of Erie, so the fish usually aren't all that obvious at first. As Randy, Jim and Leanne headed downstream, I went straight across and found a pair tight up on the far bank, tucked under roots, branches and an undercut. After a few drifts, it became apparent that I had no good line on these guys. A step closer sent them scurrying. As the lighter one dropped down, I shouted "FISH" and pointed. Leanne sighted in and kept her eye on it.
No luck, but hey, there's more around. Randy was on a tear to get to a particular spot that held copious amounts of fish last year. Jim and Leanne worked at a moderate pace. Knowing how fish can be extremely difficult to spot, I worked slowly, methodically, and there, overlooked by most of my teammates, I found a huge pod of fish tight to the bottom in a deep pocket, otherwise right out in the open.
The first fish came up fouled. Alrighty. More drifts, many more drifts. I kept moving, changing lines, anything to make sure my flies were getting down deep and bouncing off the noses of those fish...it's 36F afterall...they're not gonna move much to take an offering.
Well, it happened and it took me all the way downstream to Jim and Leanne. Jim came across to help me land it, and in the process, there, in only inches of water puddled by the shore, he spooked up a jack. Didn't get the bear-style grab, but he DID get a few good tries at my fish. Finally, we got it in and put a tape on it - 28.5" and chrome. ALRIGHTY, the first fish is in!
Jim and Leanne continued downstream...from where I was I could see Randy working a deep bend. Rather than crowd them all in, I set to working over every fish in the deep pocket. At least 12 fouls later, I was frustrated and finally went down to meet up with Randy.
Indeed, there were fish, and Randy was for the most part fouling up as well. Way downstream at the tailout of the run, Jim and Leanne were looking over the water.
We all spent some time in this section of the river. Randy continued to hook fish but most all seemed to be coming in foul. Something isn't right. I went downstream and there, along the far bank, again, tight but otherwise not hidden!
I'm tired of fouling fish, and although the "new rig" seemed to make a lot of sense, it's the only thing different. GONE!
A lot of long casts produced a few hookups. Again, I end up chasing a fish that's BOLTING downstream. Chromers will do that. It briefly turns around at the head of the riffles, but decides that going down is better. Fish off!
Alrighty..time for a different approach. I head upstream to a deep pocket in fast water immediately above the big pool that Randy is fishing. Sure enough, there are fish here too! Another fair fish comes up chrome and bolts into Randy's pool...breaking off.
We're still sitting with just ONE fish between four people, and it's now been at least a couple hours. Sure, everyone else could be in the same boat too, but it's not THAT likely! We decide we're heading out. Jim and Leanne lead the way, and slowly Randy and I follow. We each tag a fish or two on the way out, but still, we leave with a team average of just .25 fish...our score is a whopping 7.125...that's just NOT gonna cut it!
Knowing we have an "ace in the hole", we next decide to scout out 16 Mile Creek. An upstream warm water discharge means that while surrounding streams may have water temps a bit higher.
Well, that's a CROCK! I'm almost out of flies, so I bum some back from my teammates. TOO MUCH in the way of fouling with the sliding weight rig! I spend my time at 16 Mile rerigging in the parking lot while Randy is of to check our "hole".
The report isn't good. NO FISH!?!? OK, I can take an unsuspected lump...time to head for the one place we KNOW we'll just "slay" 'em.
Twelve Mile. Here we are, plenty of fish and only ONE angler besides the 4 of us. Things are looking up!
Randy, Leanne and Jim set up on the massive school of steelhead. I started work the logs and tiny little spots that always seem to hold an overlooked, unfished steelhead or two.
Six Steelhead later I'm up on the school with the rest of my fellow Tahoes. Jim nailed a big bright buck, full of red color. My phone rings...apparently FatMatt has just realized we "ditched him" back on 20 mile! Mitch? He's still in the hotel and won't be making it out to fish at ALL today. So, against my better judgment (tournament wise), I let Matt in on where we are.
It doesn't take long for FatMatt to show up and join in the "steelhead storm". Water temps are rock bottom, so while we're looking at fish stacked like chord wood, we're not having the greatest luck. Pretty much, we'd foul a lot on the pickup...not much we can do but pop 'em off and keep fishing.
Despite the boatload of fouls, we had some great fair fish. Arguably the best fish for Jim was a skipjack that simply went BALLISTIC! It tailwalked for several SECONDS at the initial hookset and didn't give up until it was firmly in Jim's grasp!
We all got fish here...it was a steelhead slam!
I gotta love it...nothing like looking over at FatMatt when I have
a fair fish and starting the chant "Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker
Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker
Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker Tucker".
I think the best hookup for me was a HUGE CHROME HEN that was possibly
fouled....couldn't tell right away as I was definitely hooked in
the "head region" and so the Tucker chant starts up. The
fish BOLTS and makes a shallow lefthand turn to rocket straight
out of the water, erupting in a spray of water and beaching itself
between me and Matt. The hooks come out of wherever it was hooked
- we'll never know if it's fair or foul. INSANE. Matt laughs and
says "that one doesn't count".
What can I say, I ended the day with 10 fish from 12-Mile. For the last 2 hours I've been fishing with my very last pair of Tucker Nymphs in size 10 and 14, reforming the bends after every hookup.
The fish are holding all over, we're almost at sundown. Back down at the logs, I get a good shot at #12 for the day...it's beached and I'm on the leader when it bolts, dragging the lead fly into my hand and popping free. It's still flopping. HMM...do I grab the fish or do I get the hook out of my hand? The hook wins out, and I return to the pool bleeding like a stuck pig.
FatMatt was down to his very last SOD. One more hookup...FatMatt is out. Jim and Leanne are frozen to the bone...they're back up in the Tahoe waiting for us. 5 more fair fish come off...I've checked my hooks..they're sharp, but they keep BENDING OUT! Alright, I guess we've put in a great day's worth of fishing, time to head to the hotel to shower and meet up for dinner...we'll find out soon enough how it all breaks down.
6:30 PM and the Smokin' Tahoe rolls up at the Golden Corral! FatMatt is already here, Tim and Brennon are on their way. Well, it sure isn't a campfire and potluck, but it'll do. Food and friends are the same wherever you go! Smack-talkin' was a bit tough due to the fact that we were surrounded by kids and families, but after Tim related a humorous tale regarding pulling his flies out of Brennon's wader's rear end, Jim managed to dub Brennon with yet ANOTHER alias - 'Ole Hookass!
So, after several helpings of everything from Pizza to Pot Roast to Steak to Clam Strips to YOU NAME IT, we finally hunkered down, broke out our papers and did the math. Without further delay, the official 2005 Pet Fly Smackdown RESULTS!
The Fat Tribe: 1 Member Fishing
Matt Pryzbelski: 8 Steelhead
Fat Tribe Score: 177
The Red Hats: 2 Members Fishing
Brennon (now, AKA 'Ole Hookass): 4 Steelhead
Tim The Enchanter: 6 Steelhead
Red Hat Team Average Score: 113.75
The Smokin' Tahoes: 4 Members Fishing
Jim: 5 Steelhead
Leanne: 2 Steelhead
Randy aka. "Drag Free ": 2 Steelhead
Matt aka. "MP": 11 Steelhead
Smokin' Tahoe Team Average Score: 113.5
1st Place - The FAT TRIBE
2nd Place - The RED HATS aka. "Team BLT"
3rd Place - The Honorable Smokin' Tahoes!
Biggest Fish - MP & The Tucker Nymph, 28.5"
Smallest Fish - MP & The Tucker Nymph, 16.25"
Most Fish - MP & The Tucker Nymph, 11 Steelhead
After determining the winner, the yearly flybox was handed to FatMatt.
When asked who he would nominate as his MVP..well, of course, the
only Fat Tribe member in attendance - HIMSELF! Then there's the
matter of the Champion's Rod,
safely resting in the Tahoe. A short outdoor ceremony in the parking
lot saw the rod changing hands and falling into possession of the
That evening, some of our buddies hit the sack early - Jim and Leanne were heading back in the morning - Randy was in no shape to stay up, fishing while under the influence of NYQUIL all day was bad enough, but his cold had not abated. Mitch - I don't think MITCH got out of bed ALL DAY OR NIGHT!
The rest of us reconvened in the Red Hat's room for some general BS'ing. So many folks were missed but we did our best to maintain the Smackdown Spirit in their absence. The highlight, arguably, was the original Sombrero Rojo himself, live via cell phone all the way from the dark and cold land known as MINNESOTA! Upon hearing the news that the Tucker Nymph had been defeated, he rang out load and clear over the speaker phone - YEEEEEE---AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!
If that's not a crazy-cold-snow-filled smackdown for ya, I don't know what is! Next year, as per our 2005 Champion's Decree, we'll be returning to the snowy bluffs of Northeast IOWA!
The Tucker will be ready and waiting - BRING IT ON!