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

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Never On Sunday"... Unless The Steelhead Are In~and They Are~:)

I usually don't fish on the weekends...

but this time of year nobody else does either and since crowds are my primary reason for staying home on Saturday and Sunday...

I decided to set out and see if I could repeat my success from yesterday.

Got up at 0700 and got my gear together.

Called my bud, Benny and left him a message.

Headed out to the river and arrived around 0900.

I saw a couple of fly fishermen and a kayaker.

Landed my first fish by 0940 and took some underwater shots before releasing her. Feisty lb and some change hen. Really pretty. She sucked and she swallowed so I had to cut out and leave her with an inner body piercing before the release.

Can you find her in this photo?

I went back to work and got a call from my redneck friend who was on his way with a tubba crawluz.

I still haven't figured this run out completely. It usually takes me a few days of experimentation before I know exactly how to fish it. And even then, it can sometimes pull a change up and what worked consistently before, suddenly doesn't.

So many variables involved to create the perfect drift....

I changed sinker diameter, hook sizes and styles, used fluorocarbon and straight mono, 8# 6# 4#, barrel swivels and pencil, pencil and split shot, 18" leader and 10" leader, thrown up current with light weight and down current with heavier weight, rigged the worm straight, wacky, with a puff ball and without, 1/4 1/3 1/2 the whole damn squirm, etc...

Benny came along and went upriver to fish a small piece of pocket water. He always likes working the small edge shit whereas I prefer the long, sweeping runs...

He hooks almost instantly.

I play camera bitch.

Pretty buck and half wild hen.

Benny likes Corkies.

My turn... straight crawler, no foo-foo shit.

Nice 2# hatchery buck. He gets released.

Benny hooks again...

...but the fish was faster than the fisherman and the shutterman so only managed an in the water shot.

Benny decides to call it a day. I contemplate leaving also.

Then the sense that God gave me kicks in and I realize that there is nothing more important in the world (or at least MY WORLD) than being on the river pursuing chromers.

I stay.

Hour goes by and nothing too exciting happens so I start thinking. Try a peach/orange spot glow bug whch gets railed by a big fish but I don't convert.

I keep dousing my glo-bug in Mike's Shrimp Oil and it keeps rolling along the rocks scraping up algae.

Back to the worm. Decide to follow Benny's lead and put on a peach corky above my crawler.

Good call!

Hook what I'm sure is a 12-15# salmon. My rod's bent over and the fish is slowly, methodically drawing its head side to side WHOMP-WHOMP-WHOMP... It never breaks water but it pulls like a crack whore on a slot machine handle.

Eventually, I see color and it is the right kind of color!

3# CHROME hatchery hen.

To be sliced and diced.

I add marks to my steelhead report card, hang the fish on a stringer and continue fishing.

*Yes, that is ok to do provided you don't take any successive steelhead out of the water...

I also crimp my barbs after I hang a fish just so I can't possibly kill any next one...

After a long spell, I get snagged on a rock. I bounce my rod tip to free the weight and it pops off without issue. As I'm reeling up the slack, my line goes tight and a 5# hen jumps straight up in the air... I make the connection just as I feel my line go limp and the fish cracks the surface as she splashes back down in to the river.

I lost one more smaller fish in the next 1/2 hour and decided to call it a long and lovely day at around 1700 hours.

Another sex-less-she-steelie with under-ripe ova...

Gullet and gut were piped with algae...

But wait! What's this?

The AR trout and steelhead #1 staple...

Caddis fly larva...


My fly rod will see action very soon.


Thank You AR Stripers/Welcome AR Steelhead

My buds and I have pretty much thrown in the towel on AR stripers for the season.

Benny made his last hurrah today and got the same results I've had in my last 5 outings.

I think he's convinced now.

Yes there are residents and yes one could conceivably catch a striper in the river even in the winter... but one could also catch a tuna in the pacific ocean...

It all comes down to cost/benefit analysis and weighing other options.

In the last 2 days, I've fished less than 3 hours and had steady action on AR resident steel.

I've yet to catch an Eel River strain winter adult but that will happen well before the month is up.

I love November for many reasons... fall colors, comfortable weather, new fish coming in to the system and very sparse crowds.

It amazes me how a vast majority of the anglers who pursue steelhead on the American, go to "The Basin" to do it.

In years past, I myself have spent lots of time there rationalizing that because it's the farthest point upstream... that's where the fish are.

In reality, yes there's lots of fish there but there's also 25-100 long-liners, tons of trash, rotting/stinking salmon, and miles and miles of dead fishing line throughout all of the runs on any given day.

You spend 1 hour fishing and 3 hours breaking off and re-tying leaders, trying to get a good drift and then yelling and fighting with idiots either upriver, downriver or across the river from you.

Oh yes and that lovely music of the basin....



"HEY I GOT A FISH ON TOO" (He really has YOUR fish snagged in the ass with HIS hook...)



So I have been fishing roughly 17 miles below the madness and my totals for one hour yesterday and 2 today are:


Here's the purdy stuff. Check out how tiny the ovaries/roe skeins are in the one dead hen...