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Saturday, April 9, 2011

One Swing Spring...

Well, this Spring sure has been tough and unfortunately doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon with more rain in the forecast for the beginning of the week. On the bright side, the latest warm rains will definitely bring loads of fresh fish into all the tributaries; no, they didn't disappear or decide not to come they've just been biding their time waiting for the right conditions. And those conditions are right now! Of course, who knows when we'll actually be able to get back on the water to fish for them. Whenever that is, the fishing should be very good. As long as the air and water temps stay seasonable (hopefully, without any extended periods of 70-80s temps) we should still have several weeks of fishing available, right into the first week of May. OK, enough of the prognosticating...

Last week I was lucky enough to get in a day on the Grand River; so was everyone else it seemed as the river was very crowded. And with good reason, a good slug of fish were in and FINALLY it was fishable. Well, at least for a day or so before the next round of rain hit. Anyway, I had the pleasure of fishing with a good client who had previously attended a MidWest Spey School spey casting class.

Nice set up Richard!

My client, Richard, came prepared with a 13' 7/8 two-hand rod and Skagit shooting head. Great set-up for easy casting, shooting line, and quick changes of the sink tip (which is attached to end of the shooting head). After a short casting tune-up, we put together a game plan for swinging flies and set to work covering the water. As cold as the water was in the morning, we were looking for holding water where fish could rest without expending too much energy to fight the current. The ideal type of water would be walking speed or slightly faster and have some type of structure against which fish can hide or orient themselves. (In cold water/weather fish are seldom found in the fast water, however, once the air/water temps climb this can be a good place to check as well).

Sweep to clear line forming a nice D-loop

After fishing through a nice tailout, we made out way down to a broad riffle and began to methodically fish from top to bottom. Slowly we worked our way through the throat and head of the riffle to the drop off where the current widened and deepened. Richard was in a good groove; casting, swinging, stepping downstream while stripping the shooting line in for the next cast. Anticipation was building as we moved in the "prime" holding water. Then, BAM! a nice tug on the line... but no fish. Anyone who's swung fly a fly knows the excitement that spreads like electricity up the line and through the body from a good grab on a tight line... and the difficulty in NOT setting the hook. Raise the rod tip = pulling the fly away from the fish. It takes an iron will not only to commit to swinging all day (when fishing an indicator might be more productive), but to allowing the fish hook itself and ONLY setting the hook (down and to the side) once the full weight of the fish is felt on the line. Nerve racking for sure!

Rod tip low, line tight on the swing

Encouraged we had the right length and sink rate tip for the current speed and depth of water we were fishing, and more importantly that there were a few "players" around we slowed down the pace of our searching/swinging and continued through the pool. Sure enough, not long after the first grab a second fish crushed the fly. No time to even set the hook on this fish as it cartwheeled out of the water and took off downstream. After a short fight, this steelhead took a different tack and ran straight at us! Putting the line on the spool as fast as possible to keep tension on the line (and avoid slack so the hook would not come out) I was able to get downstream of the fish and put it in the net. This was Richard's first steelhead on the swing and a great thrill for the both of us.

Richard with a nice hen on the swing!

Try as we might, that was the only fish of the day to come to the net. And though a variety of factors conspired against us - cold water, dirty water in the afternoon, and heavy crowds - I've got to hand it to Richard for sticking with the spey game for the rest of the day. Well, you know what they say "the Tug is the drug that makes the steelhead world go 'round".... so true ; )

Will Turek
Spey Specialist
MidWest Spey
Steelhead Alley Outfitters

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