When the waters are right, I love to swing flies and thoroughly enjoy working with others to do the same. It seems that the sport of swinging for steelhead is gaining in popularity and with such, you get a variety of folks wanting to work on the game...rank beginners all the way to those with some experience.
J.B. learns the basics of skagit casting in his
pursuit of catching Steelhead on the swung fly.
Well, this week I had both and can say it was a fun week...not to mention a VERY memorable one! What you are about to read is the absolute truth, nothing but the truth...so help me God.
One client who I truly enjoy spending a day on the water with is J.B. He is a go getter, a hard worker, and after our last excursion, definitely not a quitter! J.B. and I met a number of years back when we both attended a fly tying event in Columbus Ohio. Little did we know that we would meet again years later...he as my client, me as his guide. This was the second trip this spring, and I told him a couple of days prior that the conditions were great for swinging flies. At that point he said he had never swung flies, but I convinced him that it was definitely something he would fall in love with. With that, we hit the stream with the rod in hand and began teaching him the basics of spey casting. What is an anchor, the dangle, a white mouse, a D-loop, a dynamic roll cast, a double spey, a circle spey, etc. In short order, I had him working out the kinks on a circle spey cast and he was really starting to get it when the train wreck happened...when the swinger went wild!
He had started to settle in with a cast that was fishable (not pretty just yet, but fishable), when I decided to make a change of sink tip. I felt that a little bit longer tip was necessary to fish the run we were currently in, so I made the change....and oh how I came to regret that decision.
With the very next cast, coming off the dangle, he started into his lift and subsequent circle of the circle spey or "C" spey. This is where the lesson was learned the hard way. Instead of drawing his circle out in front of himself as I had instructed, he did so slightly over his head and the fact that the fly and line will always follow the path of the rod tip was proven very true. All at once, a beautiful custom emerald shiner swung fly came flying directly at him at breakneck speed and railed him right in the hip. Much to J.B.'s chagrin, as he looked down, he found that the hook made penetration, ripped a quarter inch slice in his Simms waders and began it's exit with a secondary puncture! I couldn't believe what I was seeing and felt horrible...the look on his face was one of bewilderment...but what can a guide do? I too had done the same thing years prior, but fortunately the hook didn't grab.
J.B. being the light hearted, fun loving kind of guy he is just laughed it off and said oh well. Disappointed for sure, he tried to refocus on the casting trying to not let it ruin his day. So, what misfortune for the day one might think, right? Well, it gets worse....MUCH WORSE!!!
Now as you can imagine, J.B. was a bit gun shy at this point, just as many a new spey caster has been themselves, but he was pressing through it. As he prepared the line for the next cast, I could sense the anxiety...it was a bit noticeable as he paused trying to build up the nerve to try it again. Being the coach, I took notice of the anxiety and encouraged him to get back in the saddle and give it go...I mean what else can happen at this point, right?
Well, I know lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place, but what about flies? As luck would have it, J.B. made a second attempt, and this time the fly broke the water, entered the air, and instead of heading for his hip, this time it was the area of his head! Yes, his head! Again, at blistering speed, before J.B. could even duck, he hears a crack around the area of his neck...around the area of his sunglasses...around the area of his glass lens Costa's....Yep, you guessed it. The next cast delivered a fatal blow to one of the lenses on his Costa sunglasses shattering them into a spider web.
At this point, I was drowning as my mouth had dropped so low that I was now taking on water! I couldn't believe the luck in this moment. I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry and J.B. figured laughing was the best of the two and gave it a roll. Now, I'll admit, it's not easy getting past a moment like that, but we did...carefully...and only after getting rid of that blasted sink tip that had thrown him into a tail spin of misfortune.
Fortunately for us, his casting would improve immensely in the coming hour...don't believe me, just check out this short video of one cast. Looking GREAT J.B.!!!
J.B. Shows that he can really get it done!
With the improved casting, he also had many pulls and hookups by the days end to look back on. This time around, he didn't get any of the Steelhead to hand, but he did get a Smallmouth and a very interesting rock. I guess you can say that J.B. is the full experience kind of guy....and that is what he got! He has already talked about his return to the Alley to finish the task and I have all confidence that he will do so!
J.B. proudly displays his prized rock swung up on day one!
A nice swung fly Smallmouth became J.B.'s first victim.
I have a feeling that many more are to come!
Following J.B. was a gentlemen by the name of Scott. He had used a two hander before but it had been some time ago and it was time for a refresher. We started out the day with the standard indicator nymphing that many Steelheaders use, but again with the conditions being right, I asked him if he would be interested in swinging flies. He quickly said yes, and the rest of the day we fished on the swing. A few kinks worked out here and there and we were looking really good...and the fish thought so too!
Well, hopefully we will get some rain soon so that the rivers will rise and bring us another push of fresh fish! That is our hope and I'm sure it's yours too.
The fish are still around if you are willing to chase them, so get out and see what you can do with a day. No matter how you do it, I'm sure memories will be made......
Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Steelhead Alley Outfitters