After what seemed like a long and tough, but productive Spring watching clients catch fish I had been hard pressed to feel the tug of fresh steel on the end of my line. All told I got in 2 short evening sessions after guiding and a couple full days of fishing (let that be a lesson to any wanna be guides out there) with mixed results. Couple of nice fish landed, but none of the large chrome fish that had shocked then quickly abused my clients during those last couple weeks of the season.
White/Blue Lion's Mane Streamer
Spawned out Hen on a Brown/Olive Tube Fly
Even though I didn't had the chance to experience it, looking back at a those pics made me think of one very special day during the last week of April. Before I go any further, I owe an apology to John Buker and Greg Survant who were denied the opportunity to bask in the glory of what was without question the best day of fishing on the swung fly I've experienced in four years fishing on the Alley.
Even before we got on the water, I knew John and Greg had a great chance at catching fish on the swing. They did two very smart things which allowed them to capitalized on the opportunity that presented itself during their trip. First, they took the time to take spey casting lessons before they arrived. Even better, they took lessons from myself. Not only did we have the chance to get to know each other, but I knew their casting abilities prior to the trip. And second, they booked more than one day of fishing allowing for poor weather, water, or fishing conditions. (Hint, Hint... for anyone interested in swinging flies next year).
Although water conditions were good, the forecast for their first day was 70s and sunny. Not exactly the best weather to bring in the remaining fresh chrome from the lake. As it turned out, it was a good thing they booked two days because the fishing turned out to be very tough that first day.
Greg with a Smallie on the Swing
Greg managed to catch a smallmouth and we had a bump or two, but most of the day was spent tuning up casting technique and learning the nuts and bolts of swinging a fly; angle of attack, mending, and controlling the speed of the swing.
Greg beginning a Circle Spey Cast
John with a Beautiful V-loop
Thankfully, the forecast for the second day was rain and cooler temperatures. So, with great anticipation we got on the water at day break in hopes of intercepting the last fresh push of fish for the season.
Greg and John Swinging a Nice Run
Greg and John both quickly settled into a nice fishing rhythm; cast, swing, take three big steps while stripping in the running line, cast again. Their practice over the last couple of days was really starting to show. And then it happened...FISH ON! Our excitement was building as we brought to hand their first steelhead on a swung fly. Surely, this could mean only one thing: fish were on the move.
John with His First Steelhead to Hand
After pounding the water hard for the next hour with only one additional tug, our excitement started to wane. We changed flies, changed tips, fish higher and lower in the run to no effect. All that was left to do was change location. Looking like we were finally going to get the rain that was forecasted, we grabbed our rain jackets and headed downstream.
John with Fat River Smallie
Game plan still intact, we settled on swinging a long tailout looking for signs of moving fish. Within minutes we spotted boils on the water's surface and knew that we were in the right spot. Greg and John again settled into a nice fishing rhythm and started to work their way down into the run.
Ready for Action
I'm not one for counting, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that every guide dreams of big number days for their clients. A "big number" relative to the fishery and techniques use to catch fish of course. We've all heard of 20-30 fish days on the Alley, and a few of us have been lucky to experience it personally or with clients, but that's not the norm. Realistically, a great day with flies is anything more than a dozen to hand. And a great day swinging flies is anything over a half dozen to hand. So what was about to happen next was totally mind blowing.
As the sky went overcast and the temperature dropped, a perfect steelhead rain settled in. The activity in the tailout started to increase and now we could clearly see that steelhead were working their way from the fast water below into the run we were swinging. Slowly and methodically, Greg and John worked their flies down in the sweet spot of the tailout. Briming with confidence, we were anticipating the tug of fresh chrome on the line with each successive cast. And then it started, BAM fish on! First John, then Greg as he followed behind through the run.
Hot Little Hen Full of Eggs
Then BAM again and again. As fast as we could get the flies back into the water and work down through the tail Greg or Johh would catch a fish. We began to see more and more fish working their way upstream. BAM another fish, and BAM another one. By the fifth or six fish landed in little more than an hour we knew something very special was taking place.
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Back to Fight Another Day
At one point in our catching so many fish were moving upstream through the tailout there was a chain of porpoising silver from the mouth of the "V" of the tail to far upstream of our position through the long flat heading up river. The fishing continued to be fast and furious. Our only time-out not hooking fish was when we had to stop and change a fly or leader that had broken off or been torn to shreds by hungry fish.
Silver Spawned-out Hen
As Chrome as They Come
The rain continued and the fish kept coming to hand. Before we knew it, five hours had past before the tail end of that fresh push of steelhead made it past our position and the catching slowed down to the point we could digest what had just happened. I'm not one to make a big deal about counting fish. Even throughout our incredible orgy of catching fish on the swung fly I didn't have an exact number of steelhead we brought to hand. Whether through not wanting to create bad mojo or to cheapen the incredible moment I was participating in, who knows. I remember at one point we stopped making pictures of every fish and only photographed the ones we wanted to remember best. If I was forced to put a number on it, I'd say with absolute confidence we hooked well over twenty fish. Like I said earlier, mind blowing!
Thick Shouldered Hen
Tight Chrome Belly
As steelheaders, both guides and fishermen, we are constantly chasing fish up and down the river. We spend endless hours discussing, debating, and making educated guesses as to the timing and location of the run at any particular point in the season. We devote hours upon hours of our waking life devoted to walking the banks of our favorite rivers searching for fish. And we pray to just once intercept THE mother lode of fresh steelhead pushing up river.
Another Thick Hen to Hand
A Hard Earned Smile, Finally
As you can imagine, it felt pretty good to be able to check that off my list. It also made me realize the importance of why we spend so much time and effort perfecting our casting and fishing techniques each outing. We're constantly preparing for that one opportunity when we find ourselves in the right place at the right time. That one time when we need the confidence and ability "to get it done". We got it done. Now it's your turn.
See you next steelhead season.
Capt. Turek, 10th Armored Lawn Division
Steelhead Alley Outfitters