Sunday, October 26, 2008

American River Spoon Session with the King and for the King 10-24-08

Been many moons waxed and waned and many spoons tossed and lost since a certain fellow Fullspeeder sent me a long-ago PM (via the Fishsniffler...).

Something always came up... work, bad timing, poor fishing, even kidney stones...

But today I finally met and fished most of the day with "THE KING" himself... the cavalier, drug-pusher from North Carolina... Shit, I forgot to ask him if he had an in for a wholesale deal on Vicodin

KINGCOLE... aka Jeff Colville.

We met in the Region II hatchery parking lot, said our hellos, shook hands and grabbed gear.

I told him to make sure and fill out his steelhead report card ahead of time since the wardens do check 'em these days...

Oops, must be a North Carolina thing... lol.

Next stop, Region II Headquarters to buy a steelhead report card.

it was easy and the ladies there were super friendly.

In 10 minutes we were re-parked and good to go.

Jeff's a great guy, very laid back, easy going and eager to find fish. He asks questions but picks up on things fast and doesn't talk your ear off while you're trying to zero in on the fish. Anyone who can put up with my grumpy ass has got to be pretty cool.

I mentioned some basics about working spoons and we spread out a bit to cover the water.

Early on I hooked a beautiful 3-4# steelhead. I celebrated a bit too early as it jumped and dumped my 1/4 oz gold BCS. I thought it was going to be one of those WFO steelhead days but such would not be the case...

A bit later I heard a small voice from up on the hill behind me, "Hey Mark!" I turned around to see a regiment of about 24 field trip kids who had come down from the hatchery with Meg, a friend I used to work with at the hatchery many years ago. She was leading the lil rugrats on a nature hike. I took their photo and I think they all smiled when I said, "Cheese!"

Seconds later my line jumped and I was engaged in battle. It felt good at first but after the initial runs and jolts I knew it was the wrong kind of Oncorhynchus... On top of that, it was swimming funny and going downriver WAY too fast.

A 'dorsal-fin-bite'....

I ran her down and got downriver from her, laid the rod down and hand-lined her close enough to where I could remove my spoon. She swam off quickly. Damn... I hate looking like a snagger in front of an audience... but I'm sure Meg covered me with the kids...

Jeff had a hit in the meantime and it got his attention and also keyed him in on what to expect.

We walked a 200 yard stretch and hammered the water thoroughly. I lost another nice steelhead and had to make a few over-the-waist spoon recovery wading missions. I think on the day I only lost 1 spoon. I think Jeff lost 1 or none.

Down at the bottom of the run, I hooked a big red buck salmon on a silver spoon. It's always a little disappointing to hook kings instead of steelies but the sheer power of a pissed-off Chinook on an ultra light rod and 8# test is still a kick in the ass.

A WAY-solid 'center-of-tongue' hookset needs no barb to stay stuck...

I snapped some photos, gave the guy plenty of recoup time and sent him back out to find a few splooge-worthy hens to play with.

Not long after that, I look up at Jeff and his rod-tip's dancing in the afternoon sky. "I'M ON!!" he says... and so I dropped my gear and grabbed the Nikon.


He handled it like a pro and had his fish bank side in just a few minutes. I took a few fast photos and watched him release his first spoon-fed fish.

I was worried we might get skunked and so this took some pressure off. He was pumped (and so was I) to have had everything go right on his first spoon fish.

A chromer steelie would have been a little sweeter but hell... I remember the first time I caught a salmon on a spoon and it was pretty freakin' cool.

I also remember the agony and torment I experienced my first several trips fishing with spoons. I got a big fat (0) the first 3 times and wondered why the hell I was even bothering with this 'stupid new idea' of rolling a curved piece of shiny steel through the water in hopes that something would actually see it and eat it.

To hook ANYthing the first time you use a spoon... is way commendable. In fact, I'd be willing to say I'd better not take Kingcole up on his proposition next time we fish:

[quote]I'll bet anyone a 12 pack of Ice cold beer that I can out fish you at your best secret fishing hole!

Test Me Bitch!next time out... [/quote]We kept at it for 2 more hours. I landed another salmon and lost another steelhead and Jeff also lost a steelie.

It wasn't red-hot fishing by any means but we both had action, lost very little gear...

...and had a great time.

I admitted to Jeff that I'm kind of a fishing-loner... and it's not that I'm stingy about spots or info... it's just that steelheading and striper plugging are for me very solitary, full-focus types of fishing. Even with my regular fishing buds, we go to the river together but end up spending 90% of the day at least 50 yards apart trying to get our fix. When one hooks, we all celebrate but in our determination to hook, we isolate.

To this day, I'm grateful for Ray Hartley (aka, Chrome-Addict) who strongly suggested I try fishing for steelhead (and salmon) with spoons. I remember him telling me that once I got it dialed, it would be my go-to method... I didn't believe him. How could a piece of metal be more effective than a worm, a cluster of salmon eggs or a fly?

He was 101% right.

So there ya' go Jeff... next time you see Ray, the original AR/BC Steele Jedi... tell him his wisdom corrupted yet another Padawan.

Nice to finally meet you and fish with you today



Monday, October 20, 2008

Battling Giants... The Big One That Got Away and Those That Didn't~AR STRIPERS

Got up way too early this morning to fish with my cranky old bastard friend, Ted...

We got to 'The Hoff' at 0600 and started pluggin' away.

I had a blow up on a pencil popper right about the time I heard Ted talking with some Game Warden in camo...

As the warden approached, I realized the 'warden' was actually a civilian, and not just any civilian mind you... but our very own Brother Hookster.

I think he took a pic of me in my Lil Red Riding Hood outfit.

It was a tad cold in the shorts...

I saw no more auction.

Hook got spanked on the spoon by a steelhead or two.

I walked downriver and when I looked back, Jason had vanished.

Ted and I worked it for another 1/2 hour for nada so we bailed to one of his fav'e spots between Watt and Howe.

The game was fucking on! and the players were burly...

Ted got a 35#+ on a Bomber.

I couldn't buy a bite on any color pencil popper so I found my old friend (Steelhead Sporty Spook) and went to work. Pretty immediately, I nailed a 25# bass and got her in for the photo shoot.

Short and FAT sows have been the rule lately... Seems the girls are 'Hoe-Town Buffeting it' for the encroaching Winter. We ARE going to have a Winter, right?

I didn't have pliers so I had to use my small scissors to pry and cut a 1/16th inch flap of cartilage from her mouth to get the hook free. It worked and she swam off like she owned the place.

I moved down river a bit and continued walking the Sporty Spook. I got boiled on and blown off. Casted again, blown up again and blown off again... WHOA! she's BACK!! Sporty got hammered twice, three times and then... FOUR FUCKING TIMES later she was on and I set the hook three times to make sure I kept her there...

I fought what was an EASY 40# brooder-bitch striper for 4-minutes (a very long time for a plug to hang in an angry striper's jaws...) and I WAS DENIED! The hook came back to me with 1 out of 3 prongs straightened on each of the VMC trebles... Joey.... VMC's suck@!

My fault though for not swapping them out with Owners.

I put my trusty Zebra-striped pencil popper on just to switch things up a bit. I stuck a small (8-9# striper).

It got quiet for about 1/2 an hour. I had a smoke, collected my adrenaline and moved 100 yards downriver. Sporty seemed to be the choice of champs today so I retired the custom Cot'-Cordell and put the wood back on.

First cast yielded a healthy 18# fish.

I went home with no blood on my hands and feeling quite content.

This time of year... stripers are more sensible than humans...

They are cold, they sleep in. The bait is hiding, they wait until the sun warms up the air and water and brings breakfast to 'the table'.

I, on the other hand... opted to skip breakfast and go out at o-dark thirty to play with myself in the cold for three hours while the stripers sat there on the bottom of the river laughing at me and my cold, fog-blowin' surface lures...

Just goes to show that...
Persistence pays out to even the most foolhardy of Fisherman.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


Stupid Steelhead and Salmon... Buy 'em Breakfast and They EAT THE SPOON!

River's been real good to me lately...

Only had 2 hours to make it happen today.

Went to the bar and ordered steelhead.

Damn Bartender gave me a salmon... a big, red one with a nose like ALF.

Amazing to me that these fish bite a silver plated piece of steel but bite it they do.

I was thinking about my 3 seasons of fishing spoons.

Of all my hookups, Only ONE ever stuck outside a steelhead's mouth and only ONE ever foul-hooked a salmon (under the chin). Hundreds of other hookups have all been in the mouth.

Of all the methods one could possibly use including swinging flies... I would say that spoons (when fished properly and with a single, barbless hook) are the safest bet for not hurting fish.

Why does a salmon or trout bite a spoon?

Perhaps they strike out of instinct or territoriality. Maybe, they see a silver or gold flash and it appears as scales of a bait fish which if left unchecked would pose a threat to their offspring.

Whatever the case, if you don't have a few in your bag of tricks, you're missin' out.

One of the many things I'm discovering about fall-run steelies is that they will move a lot further from their hold to take a spoon than a winter fish.

This logically is due to:

A) They are still in feeding mode, gaining nourishment that will sustain their milt/eggs as they approach the spawning season in February.

B) The water is warmer so the fish's metabolism is higher and it has more burnable energy to travel greater distances to get a meal.

C) The river is extremely low and clear so a spoon dipped in 24 KT gold or Sterling Silver will flash under water and be seen from a much greater distance than in more typical, higher/murkier flows.

D) There is no distraction of mating behavior nor redd-building because that doesn't happen until winter.

Whatever the reason...

I found another bar and the bartender understood my needs.

I said, LOOK MAN!"

She said, What Chu' want?"

"One aint enough man ya' better make it three..."

I had the salmon stink off my spoon, and had moved out of the water holding salmon and in to the water holding the species of choice.

I went 3/3.

The first two fish were only about 2# but I had to pay attention to land them.

I think they'll make a cute couple...

My final hookup was 'Fish of the Day'

An absolute screamin' bullet that swam straight at me, then rushed 30 yards out, jumped twice, rocketed back at me again and then started swimming in tight circles as she jerked her head sideways trying to throw the hook.

It wasn't gunna' happen tho, no F'in way. She was hooked from the inside out and from the top side down and that's the best way for a spoon hook to hang and hold (for the fisherman not the fish).

I estimated 4/5#. I thought about roe for a second and then dismissed the thought and gave her back to the river.

Today was a live and let live day....