Friday, December 25, 2015

I'm Dreaming of a Chrome Christmas

Wild Steelhead, first fish "landed" of the day
This was the scene as I crested Mary's Peak on New Year's Eve. Snow was falling pretty steady, but a mix of light rain just made it more of a slush. Some of snow did stick, maybe a half inch or so here and there so I'm chalking it up to being a white Christmas. Oddly enough, that evening would be the first full moon on Christmas eve since 1977. The fishing was good, so I'm noting that in case there might be some kind inter-stellar relevance to the hot bite that took place over the course of two days.

I love mornings like this, and having slept in to 8:30am or so, I felt well rested, caffeinated, and full of bacon and eggs as I was headed over the peak. The snow wasn't falling in the valley at all, in fact it was sunny, so seeing white on the way up caught me by surprise. It was about 45 degrees in town (Corvallis) and 31 on Mary's Peak.

As I made it to the Alsea Hatchery, the water was at about 9.41ft on the graph, which is significantly higher than I normally like to fish, but the visibility was still a good 10" or more, with the water being an olive-green color. The current was pretty swift and landing areas for hauling fish in that I normally use were under water. It would have been a good day to have a net, but who wants to lug one of those around? I ended up losing the first fish of the day because the drag was set a little high, (to keep it from running down a tailout it shot for) then it jumped and there was nowhere to put the tip into the water at that moment and the tension was just too much I guess.

Maybe next Christmas I'll ask for a Rushton landing net. This would have been a good day for one
of those, especially with the first fish I landed being wild. It seemed to be one of those fish that no matter how I tried to keep it in the water, it just felt like swimming up on the bank. Either way, it had a hot pink yarnball in it's beak that I pulled out while I had control of the fish before sending it back on it's way.

Then I landed another and another, just below the parking lot. I walked out with a limit and a smile.

I hooked all 4 fish on a Spirit River UV Fusion "Clown Egg" 12mm bead that I picked up from The Watershed Fly Shop in Corvallis, as well as my limit the next day.

Christmas Day was a very short day of fishing. The temperature was slightly warmer at 34 degrees coming over Mary's Peak, and the graph read 8.63ft when I left the house. Most of the snow had melted, but it was still falling. Using the same bead pattern, I quickly got my limit and proceeded to wander around the hatchery as a spectator, bringing gifts of Early Times whiskey to other anglers.

The water was still swift the next day, but the equipment had really made a difference in being able to land the fish. The Loomis GL2 Moderate Action 8-12lb rod bent like a horse-shoe, providing enough power to steer the fish around but enough give to let them head shake and roll around, do flips, aerials, all the fun stuff, without breaking the line (except for the one time which was my fault, not the rod). The Fleuger Purist has become my new favorite reel. I have it spooled with the blue Power Pro Super Slick (30lb). It treated me well fighting summers on the Siletz on a 10.5" Wright and McGill Light Action rod, but the Loomis combo really let me put the wood those chromers and rope 'em in.

Beyond the fancy stuff, one little gimmicky doo-dad that really ended up being a game changer was the "Trigger Happy Comfort Grip." I've had some discomfort in my right hand since breaking it a few years ago and it really helps alleviate some of the pain in my hand when fighting several fish in swift current. I'm sometimes skeptical about these kinds of products, but after having one in my hands I've become a true believer. Just to give you a summary of the feel, compare a hard plastic bicycle seat to a gel-seat, now think about the seat of your reel being between your fingers while you're holding to a rod for dear life with a drag-screaming chromer taking you for a ride. They're a good little add-on to have. I listed the product on an article for Wide Open Spaces about the 9 best outdoor products of 2015.

I took one of the first steelhead to a Christmas party on Christmas eve, feeding a bunch of people I haven't seen in a long time. The other 3 fish are going into the smoker, and possibly into jars (if they make it that far). The meat from all the fish was good quality and the eggs from the hens came in tight skeins. I cured the eggs in Pro Cure's Double Neon Red Wizard Cure with a few drops of Pro Cure Anise oil. Maybe they will come in handy for some Springers on the Santiam once winter steelhead season dies down. For now, I'm enjoying as much of this as I can.

No comments:

Post a Comment