Monday, December 22, 2008


Got a late start today.

I had to go rescue a friend who needed parts for his truck.

Stopped by the post office to pick up an army issue parka my brother in San Marcos sent me for Xmas.

Twas a nice surprise inside the box to go with the foul-weather gear.

Dan knows I'm a spoon man and damn if he didn't come up with a shocker!

It's one thing for a bro to lay some free tackle on ya'. Even cooler that said bro would send you something 101% practical right in time for steelhead season...

But this one goes way above and beyond in the kickass gift department.

Take yourself back to the 1960's when manufacturers were trying to innovate in the hardware department... a time when the tackle dealers actually put some thought and craftsmanship in to their lure designs.

So many oval/oblong, smooth-finish spoons flooded the market... and the same company which still corners the spoon market some 50+ years later... introduced the wide, tear-drop-shaped, hammered-finish wobbler with a name no one could forget.

The innovatorer was ACME TACKLE CO. of Providence, R.I. and the spoon was the STEE-LEE.

I was stoked to get these. I thought about keeping them in collector condition but that thought only lasted a second. I popped the plastic and removed 2 of the cryogenic candies from their cardboard backer. In to my already-way-over-stuffed box of RVRFSHR and BC Steele spoons they went.

Orange/Gold isn't my go to color on a typical American River day but after it rains and the water gets stained, this is the spoon to have. The bright orange and gold show through the murk and the many facets of the spoons hammered finish reflect light in a thousand different directions.

I pitched one a few times today and I was amazed by the amount of flutter and thump it had for a 1/2 ounce, thick and fat-bottom spoon. Unfortunately, I didn't take the time to swap out the original, stock treble for a siwash and so I donated my first spoon in 4 trips to the river-rock-lords...

I look forward to hooking a chromer on one of these new-old stee-lees; Thanks Dan!

I continued the day fishing a channel slot/hole below a chute and had a couple of missed grabs on the Gold and Silver spoons.

I could tell a lot of newbies have been showing up and fishing these runs recently by all of the new snags I found. I started fishing this water hard in early November and until today, it had remained nearly snag-free. Now there are snags above, across, in front, and down-river such that if you don't make the perfect cast and.or mend your line several times... you're going to get hung.

I finally caved after an hour or so of hardware and broke out the roe. In hindsight, as much as I hate float fishing... today would have been the day to do it.

At some point, the fish went on a pretty ravenous bait bite but all the takes were subtle and soft. Sneaky lil bastards kept picking my eggs off the hook. I finally sunk my #6 Gami' in to something solid but she leaped out of the water twice, shook her head once and spat said Gami' back in my face minus the eggs.

This went on for a while. I at some point decided to try worms. Roe is at a premium and I hate wasting a whole skein on finicky, smart or smaller fish so out came the crawlers.

Getting the right drift was still a challenge so I made a few adjustments. I swapped spools from 8# to 6#, cut my weight down to about 1/4 oz. and walked further down river in to some softer water.

It didn't take to long after that to snag up again. DAMN! Where did THAT ONE come from? I questioned... and then I felt a head shake. No jumps, no flashes nor boils just bulldoggin' and musclin' its way around and pulling a bit of drag along the way.

She wasn't the fish I was looking for but at least I got to touch one and redeem myself for the others I failed to set the hook on.

This hen had obviously been hooked before as she sported a sore and a growth on the corner of her mouth. My hook placement was rather strange too... from the inside of the mouth out and from top to bottom.

I don't recall ever having hooked a trout this way.

Aside from the strange hook set and the maxillary growth, this fish also had a cropped lower mandible which gave her some serious overbite and a funny looking face. Maybe her stunted lower jaw predisposed her to get hooked the way she did...

I thought about how sweet these lil orange-meated hens are to eat and also about the fact that I have a large adult chromer in marinade on deck for the smoker...

so I kept my hands clean and turned her back to the river.

I continued fishing for another hour and had a few hits, one more dropped steelie, and I landed the perfect (striper-bait) sized squawfish which I also showed mercy towards (and didn't kill).

I was back to my truck before dark and all of my windows and doors were intact.

Reflecting on the day as I drove home, I was carrying a bit of disappointment at the fishing. But then I looked at the bright side... I had a nice day of exercise, solitude, a little action and I landed a beautiful 3# resident rainbow trout. Yes, the fishing could have been better but it could also have been much worse.

Thanks for the spoons Daniel.

Thanks for the fish and peace of mind river.

Until we meet again,

Friday, December 19, 2008


After hooking a beaut' the day before... I couldn't resist another trip to the honey hole.

I got to the bar at 0830 hours and spent the next 10 minutes trying to tie a knot. The culprit was a bad interlock swivel with a burr in its ring... you know the type... no matter what kind of knot you tie, how perfectly you lay the wraps nor how carefully you cinch it down... the '30#'s-of-pull' test breaks the knot right at the top of the swivel...

Damn I'm tired just writing about it and also just tired so hell with the long-winded journey; here it is in a nutshell:

Found a good swivel.

Tied up the spoon.

Chris (only other REAL spoon guy I know on the river) comes down.

We talk.

He goes up-bar.

I pound the deep water for nada.

Chris leaves.

I go up and fish roe.

Tap, tap, tappy fishies, lil residents not so picky about their holding water (aint as much of them to hold...) very picky about your roe presentation, lil bastards@!

Hook/land/shake some a' the lil grunts.

Move back down.

Meet up with a toothless guy plunking. Camo, Ugly Stick, orange rod tip, pyramid sinker, 6/0 hook, bag of bubble gum roe he found on the bank... looks like old tennis shoe rubber... globs the size of a pool balls, dripping white like the fungus on a spent salmon hen's nose...

Enter flyguy.

POLITE flyguy... asks permission to fish the run 50 yards up from the point we're at.

Sure, wish more flyguys were like that... I told him about the fish I put back upriver...

Nothing too exciting... This type...

Weekday-weekend warrior and I shoot the shit. Nice guy. He heads across the river.

Alone again.

Sun is obscured by clouds.

Tropical storm front comes in.

Lighting is perfect for photography and rolling spoons.

2/5 oz. gold BCS. <- If it aint broke, don't fix it and it worked the day before.

Not long after... right place/time.


Sluggish pig of a hen.

No acrobatics but I'll take what I can get...

4-5 years ago, the hatchery must have hired PETA employees or Snooty (100% C&R) anglers to clip the adipose fins = nub, flap, spots, graspable but unmistakably-shaved vestigial appendages (Remember those big, long stupid words in bio class? Not sure why I do but I do) at the same exact angle as the lapped dorsal fin. The fight (or lack thereof...) was the first tell-tale sign.

Pity that many anglers and even some CDFG wardens don't know the difference.

31" x 18" x 13#.

Classic-corner hookset.

Damn I love spoons@!

Light load, less tackle, no mess, mostly bigger/bolder/brighter fish, vicious grabs 85% of the time or I'm missing more of the softer ones than I know.

Bullshit... world's full of it.

I'm full of it.

I digress.

I'm tired.




YES, I am a freakin' poser, photo-whore paparazzi... and yes I did take photos (live first) and then swapped the spoon placement in the jaws to get the other side... The eyes are always a DEAD giveaway... I love fish, I release fish, I honor and respect fish but I also kill fish.

Never on your water, in your hole, never wild... regardless of regs and when a hatchery fish kicks my ass real good before I land her, her genes go back in the pool whether my roe freezer's empty or full...

Looking forward to deploying my new RVRFSHR gear sent courtesy of Todd Ripley and Joe Hart. Love those guys... real guys, right attitudes, good hearts, hardcore fisherman, nice hardware. LOVE the hammered 50/50 and 3/8 is a great compromise between 1/4 and 2/5. That 1/8th. oz. over the one and the 1/16th. oz. under the other just might be the racer's edge... THANKS!


Thursday, December 18, 2008



Twas the WEEK before Christmas, when all through the RIVER;

Not AN ANGLER was stirring, not even a SNIFFER,

THEIR WADERS were hung IN THEIR ATTICS with care;

In hopes that SOME CHROMERS soon would APPEAR,




While visions of ACTUALLY FISHING merely danced in their heads;


and all the other WANABEES WHO HAVEN’T GOT A CLUE,



Away FROM THE INTERNET I flew like a flash,









Mark Lynn December 17, 2008

I pulled that quickly out of my hat while pondering all the losers on internet fishing sites who talk about fishing, dream about fishing, open polls about fishing, beg information about fishing, scour the net for reports about fishing...


Yesterday was December 17, 2008.

The rain had fallen pretty consistently for the last 2 days and I was supposed to meet up with 'Wilson' in 'The Basin' to feed roe balls to the steelhead.

I woke up and went back to sleep. I woke again and was dreading the thought of making that long trek across the bridge, down the hill, and then dealing with all the idiot long-liners and stick fishermen who if removed from the basin and their 15 ft. leaders, wouldn't have a clue how to legitimately hook a steelhead...

Then there was the prospect of frostbitten hands and trying to make numb fingers grasp and pull out a tiny strand of line to form a loop and insert wet, sticky, soggy clusters of eggs into it before rinsing the residue from my digits in the near-freezing waters of the river.

I turned to grab my rod, my waders, and my vest and then instead, turned around and reached for a mug, a filter and a bag of French Roast.

By now it was 0830 and Ted would certainly have been in to his first of several fish by now and wondering... "Where the hell is Mark?"

I drank my coffee, had a bite to eat, put on some warm clothes and was still feeling a bit out of sorts so decided to take the road less traveled. To hell with the basin... I'll grab a box of spoons and a few swivels and be on my way. No backpack, no vest, no weights, no hooks, no roe. Today I would travel light and commit to using bent brass dipped in fine silver and gold.


I got to the spot at 0930. The time of day when "It's OVER!" by my fishing buddy's standards. He's one hell of a fisherman but he doesn't know as much as he thinks he knows...

Two prior days of rain, excess cold air and water temperatures, the river running at 950 CFS (about 1/4th. it's usual flow for this time of year) and a 'bluebird day' can only mean one thing... STEELHEAD HOLDING! It makes sense if you think about it. Steelhead are cued by rainfall to migrate upriver. When it rains, the fish move. When the sun goes down; especially around a full moon; (which we just had...) the fish move, under overcast skies the fish move. But on a sunny day with clear, cold water and the deep holes few and far between... the fish do not move, THEY HOLD!

I fished a likely spot for nearly an hour without a touch before deciding to move up river to a deep hole below a tailout. I got there and tied on my trusty 2/5 oz. gold BC Steele spoon. My first drift was abruptly stopped by a rock. I slacked the line, popped the rod tip and lifted the spoon out of its entanglement.

Second drift was a repeat of the first... NOPE... the rock didn't move; it was still in the same place. I suffered no casualties though and soon had the spoon wound back up to my rod tip. I stepped towards the run and made a third cast beyond the snag where I sensed I could get a clean drift and get down to the bottom fast enough for the spoon to swing and flash in the sweet spot at 1-2 o' clock. TUNK TUNK... I knew that was no rock but it did feel like a smaller fish. I should have swung anyway as in colder weather and water big steelhead will sometimes taste instead of swallow a spoon...

I threw to the same slot on my fourth cast and felt the WHOMP, WHOMP, WHOMP of fluttering brass and the KLOP, KLOP of the same brass banging a couple of small boulders as it slowly sank out in front of me. Somewhere in that split second between the lifting phase of the spoon and my anticipation of either free-spooling line to keep it down and in the zone a bit longer or just letting it swing to a stop... I GOT RAILED!

It was one of those decisive grabs; it happens so fast and so furious that by the time the hit transfers through the spoon to your line and from your rod to your brain, the fish is already boiling on the surface, ripping her head sideways and yanking line from your spool. It's that moment when the world around you ceases to exist and your attention is immediately and completely dialed in on the fish and the fight at hand.

There's no room for error and so the thoughts race through your head... "How is she hooked?" "Is there an abrasion nick 10 or 20 or 30 yards up my line from that boulder I've pulled on 2 and 3 casts ago?" "Did I tie a good knot" "Is the gate on my swivel closed?" These thoughts weave their way subliminally in and out of your consciousness between head shakes, surface-blasting tail wags, crocodile rolls and bulldog runs. You know it's a respectable fish and since you've had it pinned on a size 1 Gamakatsu siwash well beyond 'the 10 second rule'... it's PROBABLY going to stay buttoned.

And then you figure what the hell... better hit that fish hard once or twice...

I loosened my drag a tad and gave a fast, moderately-driving-punch set to the hook to sink it and as I did this my reel handle starts spinning wildly out of control knocking my knuckles and spewing line from my reel (DAMN SPINNING REELS...). Somehow, my anti-reverse decided it couldn't perform under a load, SHIT!

Fortunately, my knuckles slowed the handle's rotation and I only had one loop between my rotor and bail armature and I was able to free it without giving slack to the fish. I spent the next 3 minutes expecting the worst and hoping for the best. I ended up making lots of drag adjustments, walking downriver of the fish while palming the spool and eventually turning the bright hen's head without letting go of that reel handle which now served as a crank AND an anti-reverse lever...

Oh the drama... but in the end I had a 9# dime on the rocks.

If I had known how well the fish was hooked when I first set up on her, I could have avoided some unnecessary stress.

My siwash point had pierced her tongue from the top side down...

...and then double-stitched it from the bottom side up- and deep into the tongue- so it wasn't just the cold weather which had kept this girl from getting airborne during the fight.

I'm a fan of the fan tail:

First step in preparing steelhead roe from a hatchery brat...

It was nice to see that the rain had brought some fresh fish into the system. And the forecasts are showing good weather from now until Xmas.

PS: GOOD WEATHER to a steelheader = cloudy, rainy, cold and all of the things which normal (actually strange...) people hate.

That's all for now, hope to NOT see you on the river~;)

Friday, December 5, 2008


Set out to fish this morning at 0830.

I departed from the spot I'd been regularly fishing to try out some new water.

My first step into the river flushed out a large salmonid of one species or another. I never saw the fish but the V-wake was immense as the fish plowed through the soft water and into a nearby riffle. Likely, it was a winter-run salmon resting before navigating her next upriver migration.

I worked the seam water of a small tail out and then all potential holding water at the head of and on both sides of the island. My spoon went untouched and I saw no potential takers anywhere I fished or looked. I got down to the bottom of the island where the side channel meets back up with the main stem of the river. Perfect water... small to medium-sized gravel interspersed by larger cobbles. The island extends underwater for 75 ft. and breaks rapids from the main channel as the deeper, slower water of the side channel meets up with it to produce a long, wide seam of holding water.

I worked the close water first with a 1/4 oz spoon and made my way down to the sweet water below the island. I stepped in slowly as a steelheader should always step in to a run likely holding fish. I eased back in to the soft water of the side channel so that A) I wouldn't spook any fish in front of me and B) so that my spoon would draw along most of the seam of the main river and at the end of the swing would end up in the deep hole.

After two casts I realized that the fast water out in front of me was grabbing my spoon like a washing machine grabs a pair of panties on SPIN cycle... and was lifting it way too much in the last 1/3rd of the drift. I pulled out my 'go-to' spoon box and took out my only 2/5 oz. BC Steele in polished silver. With the consistently low flow of the river, the 1/4 oz. spoon has been working for me in most situations but here I clearly needed the extra density to get down.

I noticed that the hook on it was a barbless, Sickle Siwash (from Matsuo). This is a bit ironic to say the least because the night before I was reading hook reviews in a forum discussion on Bob's Piscatorial Pursuits and was later rehashing over the phone... the pros and cons of Matzuo, Gamakatsu and VMC siwash hooks with my buddy and fellow spoon-tossin' steelhead-junkie, Ray. I was recalling that I had lost some very nice fish with the Sickle hook... Oh well, what the hell... I threw the weightier spoon out in to the rip. Thump, wobble, clump... BAM! the spoon stops and I see a head and then a tail and a big splash. My rod loads. I set up on the fish and she clears the water dispelling my first thought that I had hooked a salmon... I've got what is easily a 12# if not better, chrome hen steelhead. I loosen my drag a tad and take a step sideways. The fish rips off 15 yards of line, breeches the surface, shakes her head and my line goes slack. I reel up and look at the hook and feel it. Damn sickle hook... and barbless... and dull!

Ironically, when I got my order of BC Steele spoons, I made up 12 all with shiny, new Gamakatsu 10009 #4 Siwash hooks and Worth or Roscoe #4 split rings. The one time I elect to use an 'old spoon' (really no such thing in any ACTIVE steelheader's boxes...) it has a worthless hook attached to it and I lose my biggest steelhead yet this fall...

With every let down there is a pick-me-up and for me it was Heck Yeah! I just hooked a beautiful steelhead in a new spot and there's bound to be another...

I spent the next hour consumed with that thought but finally decided it was time to try something different. I ditched the spoon and made up a drift leader to bounce night crawlers.

Tiny bit of lead, split shot, #8 egg hook and a lil' chunk of worm was next on the rigging menu. I got all tied and worked the setup for while and had a hit or two but no commitment. Also, the slug-like chunk of crawler and fast current I was throwing in to kept twisting my line so I cut and retied adding a barrel swivel and swapped the 'slug' for a skinny worm which I nail-pinched in half and threaded on the hook.

First cast and I felt tick, tick, tick... LOAD. Not a peck, not a slam, just a weight at the end of my rod tip and a slow, pulling head which I figured was a decent sized-rainbow. Turned out to be a 4# buck steelhead in dime-bright colors.

I landed the fish and snapped a few shots. He'd swallowed the hook so I snipped the line with my trusty, red scissors and sent the young fella on his way.

The next hour and a half yielded no hookups but I did get to see several fish (steelhead and salmon) jumping and swimming in the run. It definitely seems like more fish are showing up daily. We do need rain badly but I think the fish are looking at their fish calendars and saying, "SCREW IT! LET'S GO!!" Nature does what it must do to survive.

I was joined by another angler. He actually stopped about 150 yards above where I was fishing and then crossed the river and fished below me. Such is the courtesy so often shown during steelhead season in the LOWER stretches of the American River. It alone, is a great incentive to avoid places like Sailor Bar (when its open) and the Basin (which is always open). I made a few more casts and then decided to go home and have some lunch.

After a few chunks of smoked steelhead and a cup of coffee, I got my gear together and headed out for 'Round II'. I would be fishing a bit up river this time. Along the river, I met up with a guy totin' a 12' spey rod. He had the typical question and the typical answer of most fly guys I've met on the river... "Any grabs?" and "No, nothing..." I did tell him I'd lost a nice fish down river in the morning. We promised each other to do a rain dance and then parted paths.

I got to my destination by 1530 and figured I had a good hour and a half to hook something. Little did I know...

I was hitting the hole with fresh eyes and a 'fresh' spool of old line... As much as I hate braided line and pretty much swore off using it two years ago... I decided to give it a review and see if it felt right. I dug up a spool of 10# Power Pro.

I was hoping it would give me a better feel of the uneven river bottom and also allow me to make longer casts and drifts. It did both. I was now able to heave a 2/5 oz. spoon all the way across the river and the braid let me know by vibration when I needed to lift the spoon over a rock, tree etc... I concentrated on the middle of the rapids, a section of water about 100 yards long by 30 yards wide.

I hit the sweet spot on one cast and felt my spoon throb and then rapidly flutter to the bottom of the hole. It was crushed instantly and the fish wasted no time at all shaking violently and running out and down river. The head shakes were so fast and furious, I was sure I had a 'steelieus bruticus'. Not used to braided line, I wasn't sure how much drag I should button down on the reel. The fish checked out and was NOT going to just waltz in for a landing so I started moving down with it, keeping my rod tip up and reeling when the fish would give me a few yards. Five minutes in to the fight I knew that if I didn't start putting some heat on this fish, it was going to spool me. In fact, it damn near did spool me twice before I tightened my drag again and walked another 30 yards downstream. Every time I gained 20 yards of line, the fish would take back 40-50 and fast! I used my hand on the spool to slow it down. It may be a bad habit but it's the best way I know how to control drag without a stupid bail and some mindless washers trying to do it for me. Besides, I can change the pressure of my palm a lot more quickly and precisely than I can a turn a knob. I think my spool-palming is a carry over from my preference for using casting as opposed to spinning reels ...

It seemed like this fish was never going to tire. At some point, I had resigned to the fact that there was no way this was a steelhead. Too damn big to be one on our river and the runs were low and linear not erratic and on the surface or out of the water... Several drag zipping runs and another 50 yards wading to keep up and avoid applying too much pressure... later, I saw the fish breach the surface. Yes, definitely a salmon and I'm thinking it's GOT to be tail hooked or snagged in the ass. That would explain the long, downriver runs and what initially felt like head-shakes.

But, knowing from experience that sometimes a big, fresh buck King will act like a snagged fish AND the fact that I hooked him on a spoon and I rarely snag anything with a spoon because I drift/flutter rather than jig them... I decided to play it out.

Five more minutes of running me ragged back and forth across the river, I could feel the fish was at last beginning to tire a bit so I got downriver from the fish, laid my rod over sideways and slowly pulled back. The runs continued and were still strong but much shorter now and when the fish came to the surface again, I could see my spoon flashing as it dangled from a massive set of jaws. I finally got to the pump/reel phase and knew I wasn't going to lose my LAST silver 2/5 oz. ZOG-autograph.

20 minutes or so after the initial hookup, I landed the fish and got him to some soft water for a few photos. No, not the big steelhead I first thought I had but in some ways... this was better. This fish kicked my butt all over the place for 20 minutes. He made me walk, sweat, think, question, doubt, adjust, and fight like hell! and in the end he rewarded me with some quality photos and a killer memory.

This fish represented a lot to me beyond just a big fish that I caught. This was a mighty Chinook... the untamed KING! An individual driven by instinct, by desire, and by his will to survive against all odds.

We all know the plight of the Pacific salmon... Their numbers have decreased exponentially in a matter of a few years. It would be a tremendous loss to the planet and all of earth's inhabitants, sentient and otherwise, if the salmon should perish from their natal waters. I contemplated these things as I revived the creature and as I began to release him, I wanted to grab my camera and take a photo of him swimming away but it was in my backpack, 15 yards out of reach.

Once the buck started fluttering his pectoral and pelvic fins, swishing his tail and snapping his jaws, I let go and made a mad dash for the camera. Two seconds later with aperture open and shutter ready to fire... I returned to the cobbles where a mighty beast had regained his strength and stature... and had faded away into the great mystery~

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Hit the American River today and traveled light; no pack, no vest, no bait...

The steelhead roe I got from my Thanksgiving day hen cured up perfectly. I donated 1/3 of it to friends and the other 2/3 sits insulated in foil and newsprint in anticipation of hungry winter steelhead.

I left the worms in the dirt box and grabbed 2 boxes of spoons and a few swivels.

Sometimes, I regret not bringing the whole arsenal of gear. There's always that thought about an hour in to a so-far-fish-less mission... "DAMN! If only I had my..."

Today started out that way... After 2 hours of wading, crossing the river and flinging spoon of various weights and colors... I finally hit paydirt in a scrappy 5# up-runner hatchery buck.

I'd been drifting mostly 1/4 oz spoons all morning but once across the river in deeper/faster water... I figured a switch to 2/5 oz. was in order.

It was a good call as the denser body of the 2/5 ounce BC Steele (1/2 and 1/2) got down, stayed down and moved more slowly through the run. I cast slightly upriver into the top of a tailout, reeled like hell for a few seconds and then let the river work its magic. I can't be sure if my spoon bumped the nose of the fish or if it came out of the cascade and followed it downriver before crushing it in the glide. My guess is that the former occurred since it was hooked in the lower palate.

A fish chasing a spoon downriver from right to left will usually result in a left-side of the face corner or upper palate hook set.

Whatever the case, he was not at all happy about his new dental plan and he made enough runs and jumps to make me think he was a she or at least a wild fish... turned out to be neither.

Not out of the ocean long enough to REALLY display his manhood... but enough of a kyped lower jaw, elongated body and jaw hinge to say HE and not she.

Not a true chromer but damn nice and bright and still sporting a few swashes of chromium on his tail rays...

I snapped a few pics, wiped away the blood and tears and sent him back home. It was cool hooking up on the gold/silver as I hadn't used that pattern for a long time. I thought for sure I had it all dialed and that I'd be hooking at least a few more fish... NOT!

The only other solid hookup I had was on a rock in water to deep to navigate and recoup my spoon so I broke it off and called it a day.

Amazingly, that was the first spoon I've lost in weeks so it didn't hurt too bad. my back, on the other hand, was KILLING ME so I picked the right day to pack light and leave early.

Spoon fishing is regarded as a brainless endeavor by many steelheaders but I have to disagree. Yes, one CAN catch fish on spoons without a lot of calculating, adjusting, or refined techniques but like anything... there are so many variables involved that one can make it as simple or as complex as s/he wants. I'm starting to believe that the more one questions and answers, experiments and puts theories in to practice, the more successful that angler is bound to be.

I've yet to read the books of the masters (Davis and Herzog). I will get to them eventually but I enjoy learning by doing more than by reading so I'm taking that route first.

Today, I fished some very different types of water and realized that although my gear (ultralight spinning rod with slow action, fast taper and 6# test) was suitable for most of the runs I fished... my drifts in some of the water would have been optimized by having a more moderately tapered, heavier-powered casting rod with thicker line and perhaps a few 2/3 oz spoons.

More on this subject later.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

November 28 2008 American River Steelheading

Went out to my backyard play land to try and raise a steelie or two.

Having had my truck broken in to a few days before, I elected to park elsewhere and take a different route.

I passed by the golf course and pondered the similarities and differences between sports.

Both require a lot of money, equipment and endless accessorizing, practical and technical knowhow, and constant refinement in order for the participant to be 'on his game'...

Each is an outdoor sport best practiced in the early morning hours. Each requires patience, perseverance and repetition for the sportsman to reap the inherent rewards and benefits.

Both involve hazards. In golf, there is rough, sand traps and water. In steelheading there is rough terrain (walked about in a 'skin-hugging neoprene straight-jacket'.

There are traps (usually not of sand but rather where all sand eventually settles... on the river bottom. The worst of all hazards is perhaps the miles of dead line, broken-off leaders, strands of mono-slicing Power-Pro and other worthless braided lines deposited by 'liners' who never got past the basic building blocks of drift fishing a river and can't seem to evolve beyond 'Cro-Magnon dredging' with an over-weighted, long-line and bead setup.

Tethered to these massive webs of dead line... are gobs of lead in long strands and cannonball-sized chunks suspended above swivels, more beads and hooks often large enough to pierce the ass of Jonah the Whale (or the ass of what few unsuspecting, king salmon remain in the river...) Together, these comprise a steelhead angler's worst nightmare.

Water... kind of speaks for itself as hazardous. It can infect you (Giardia) with one lick to your line while cinching a knot tight or it worse, drown you rather quickly in any of its many currents, back eddies, undertows, and/or submerged debris piles.

In each endeavor, at the end of the day, one can measure his or her successes/failures by the final tally kept with pen and paper. Golfers fill out a scorecard. Steelheaders complete a report card. They both serve a similar purpose but are numerically opposite in what constitutes a good score. Golfers strive for low numbers and hope for the miraculous occurrence of a hole in one. Steelheaders strive for big numbers and hope for the miraculous occurrence of hooking one in every hole...

Oh the shit one ponders on his way to the water for a few hours of fishing.

I brought the Himalayan Adventure pack, stuffed to the gills with way more shit than a man could ever need or use in an entire steelhead season...

I arrived and decided to ditch the armada of drift boats in the vicinity of my usual run. I retreated back up river and found a little cutaway in the willows where I could make a cast and get a decent drift. After 20 or so casts, I started thinking I might have fared better at the golf course... but I don't golf anymore so I kept on fishing.

At some point, I got tired of my night crawler sagging and sliding down the shank of my #6 hook so I downsized to a #12 Gamakatsu single egg hook. This was better for presentation but not much hook to embed in the mouth of any respectable steelhead so I cut and replaced with a size 10 and added a Corkie for bouyancy. The next drift was money! I hooked a small wild fish that lept out of the water and showed its spirit.

Lots of spirit but not much money... about 2 cents on the trout richter scale of size... but hell at least I knew I was getting down to the fish... Strangely... it was one of the very few smolts I've hooked this fall as most of the fish have been at least approaching 2# and up to 4#/5#.

I wandered around in search of the elusive winter or at least larger, fall run fish and after many casts decided that the worm wasn't going to make it happen. I clipped my leader and broke out the trusty spoon box. The BC Steele 1/4 oz. Gold has been the most consistent producer this fall so out it came and on it went.

By now, all of the boats had disappeared and my 'tee-off slot' and spot were open. I walked down and worked the close water first. Every 10 casts or so I moved down river and in a few inches closer to the current seam. My spoon got thumped pretty hard and finally I'd hooked a respectable fish. After a short and sweet little battle, I landed this 4# hatchery buck.

He revived fine and swam away healthy despite that I gave him a bloody lip. It's amazing what I sometimes overlook and the camera always picks up... Poor guy got his lip ripped.

Maybe that'll keep him smart and away from any more sharp hooks this season.

After releasing the fish, I realized what incredible lighting there was from the position of sun and clouds and so I snapped a couple landscape photos.

Benny and Sadie joined me later that afternoon but the fish ditched us and sent us all home with tails between legs.

I'm really looking forward to the winter run. Beating the banks for 1-3 hookups a day is better than a kick in the ass but I dream of multiple hookups and big, bright chromers.



Friday, November 28, 2008

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Said the 9.5# American River Chrome Steelie~:)

With the passage of my grandmother earlier this year... the holidays seem a little empty.

This would be the first time in many years, I didn't fire up the truck and drive down to the bay area to be with family on Thanksgiving Day.

We decided to give it a bye for 08 and I stayed home. Yesterday, I thought about my grandmother and the rest of my family. I also considered my options for Turkey Day...

My order of Pen-Tac spoons arrived in the mail and so I had something very important to do as I thought...

By the time I turned in at 0145 this morning... I knew exactly what I needed to do and what any of my friends or relatives, dead or alive, would expect and want me to do after a steady rainfall in the late Autumn.

It was settled.

I got down to the river by 0830 and saw a fly fisherman so kept moving. I got to the intended run and found 2 guys up river, 4 guys across the river and 1 guy down river from where I wanted to fish.

The night before I'd outsmarted most of the 4 dozen or so night crawlers I grabbed at in the dark. A few of the worms were pretty witty, overly slimy or engaged in hermaphroditic sex and one of the he/she's slipped away. When all was said and done, I had lots of lively bait and enough mud under my fingernails to grow potatoes.

The fog had lifted and the clouds were still socked in over the somewhat swollen, stained river as I tossed out my 24 KT gold utensil with a #2 siwash hook where the handle should be.

I normally use a size 1/0 or 1 Gamakatsu but then again, I also normally use a 2/5 oz. spoon... This fall I've been rewarded nicely for tweaking things and sizing them down. I was contemplating the likely better balance of a smaller hook with the lighter 1/4 oz. spoon. Honestly, most steelhead inclined to hit a large, fluttering piece of brass could really careless about hook size but a spoon roller is always seeking that perfect balance and the #2 just made sense. What also made sense was that I only had 2's and 4's when I started the assembly line and I didn't feel like getting off my arse and driving 10 miles to the Sportsmart at 2100 hours but I digress...

Just before launching cast number 2, I see breezers moving along the slot and up into the riffle ...Maybe I should dump the hardware and rig up one of those suburban slimers...?

I dismiss the thought and chuck the spoon. On its descent, a very fast-flying, goldeneye manages to pick up my line and turn himself into a kite. Of all the birds that should be able to DUCK! I'm thinkin'... as my line tightens and my spoon travels skyward. About 3 seconds and 60 yards later, the line goes slack and the bird keeps flying. Thank God~

I made cast number three and 1/2 way through the drift, I was thinking that copper might be a better color, still a darker hue but a bit less luster than gold...

Damn steelheaders are always trying to navigate the astral universe with quantum physics before learning to just tie their shoes and walk... I think that's just the nature of the beast.

And then came the wicked grab that yanked my spoon, my line, my rod tip and all of those unnecessary thoughts, questions and doubts right out of my head...

My first thought was- 20# up-runner King. After the yank, came a couple of hard, fast runs and lots of head shakes. The fish only jumped twice and the second time she did, I knew there was no salmon at the end of my line.

I wasn't sure how well the fish was hooked nor how well my semi-battered 6# line would hold up so I spent the next 7 minutes adjusting my drag, and doing the gentle give and take that you can do with a 9.5' ultralight.

This wasn't a monster but it definitely was an Eel River fish not long out of the salt. She didn't make drag-screaming, air-born runs but she shook her weight around constantly and crocodile-rolled enough to make me sweat a bit. Her last act of defiance was to burst upriver, turn on a dime and then twist her shoulders around the slack line she created. I dipped the rod, righted the line, reeled fast and turned her out of the current-seam and over to the break.

I could see the spoon and swivel pointing towards the sky and the entire bend of the Siwash embedded in the roof of her mouth and I knew the outcome...

I tried to be nonchalant throughout all of this by keeping my enthusiasm silent and walking slowly backwards but as I beached the fish, the two upriver guys caught wind...

One guy yelled, "Is that a STEELHEAD?" He came over and asked if I wanted him to take a photo.

I stared him coldly in the eyes and screamed, "NO! I'm a loner now get the hell out of here!"


I gave him the camera and he kindly snapped a few photos.

We bs'ed a bit and I left him with a gold BC Steele 1/4 OZ. spoon, a few pointers, and I wished him a Happy Thanksgiving.

And once I pried my spoon away and got measurements (30 x 16) I did what any self-respecting steelheader would do with no roe in his freezer and a hatchery chrome hen in his hands... I sliced a few rakers and let her bleed.

My fishing partners in crime, Benny and the birthday girl (his 10 year old lab, Sadie) came down with their father Jim to wet a line. It's a tradition for the trio to get out and fish on Thanksgiving Day.

Benny hooked a nice steelie not long after showing up but of course as I was focusing the camera lens... it came unbuttoned. Oh well, I took a snapshot for the books anyway. I lost a second fish an hour or so later and we called it a day.

I left the river feeling really good, really grateful and I know my Grandmother was looking down and smiling on me.

My Thanksgiving Day 'Turkey' has fins instead of wings, orange instead of dark or light meat, and much smaller eggs but lots more of them...

Happy Thanksgiving