Quest for 20 – Part III – Beating a Hex

Link to The beginning of the Quest for 20 – Quest for 20 – Part I – The Intro

Link to most previous Quest for 20 – Quest for 20 – Part II – The Beginning

Link to the Trailing hook method seen in cover photo – The Trailing Hook Method

What is your hex while fishing? It seems everyone has one, or at least believes they have one while carrying a certain object while fishing. This could be their camera, a net, a cooler – anything really. It seems whenever this item is on you, you never get a fish; yet when the item is left at home you seem to have good days.

Through past rough stretches I’ve even personally found myself “accidentally” leaving my trusty Moby net at home, or even my camera (especially on short trips). The past couple seasons, I’ve simply made sure to carry everything each trip, so that I don’t let any of these wive’s tale’s go to my head.

This intro leads right into the start of my first successful day on “The Quest.” Mike and I arrived to the river, with the intentions of doing a drift. We went to suit up, and Mike realised that he had left his wading boots at home. I joked with him that we were for sure going to get fish on this change-up. Out came his water moccasins, and before long we were walking down to the river. The first couple runs are fairly easily accessible (perhaps a 15 minute walk), and drifting isn’t necessary – yet they are too good to pass up – so we started our day here. Mike’s first cast through yielded a hard hit. 3 casts later he claimed he saw a steelhead chase his spoon (a silver/black 2/5 R&B) out. Nothing came of his next cast, so he took a few steps down. I came in behind him with something a little different – a silver/copper 2/5 R&B. Right where he claimed he had seen a fish come out, my line went tight and the fight was on. Most definitely a winter fish, but small, perhaps 5 pounds. It was nearing the end of the fight and coming to the net when it went on one last little burst and popped the hook.

As a little side blurb to the above – I find in these low, extremely clear (and cold) conditions, a spoon with copper on it nearly never fails. It can be a half copper with another metal (or paint) or even straight copper, but it seems something copper is the way to go. The more clear and low a river is, the more likely I am to go with a straight copper, and maybe, an orange trailer hook. Weather is another factor in deciding – sunny days I will most definitely go with straight copper (if the low and clear conditions above are met). Rainy/cloudy days such as this, I’ll go with another metal on the other half to add a little extra flash, but keep things somewhat “natural.” The only time I’ll typically run a copper/paint finish is if the river is a large system in the low/clear state (in which case the fish can see the colour coming from a long ways away – and I find they are less likely to spook), or the river is high, but still clear.

We fished the rest of the run with nothing, and Mike went to continue down. I decided to cycle back up to the head of the run quickly and see if anyone new had moved into the previous fish’s spot. My third cast, just as the spoon hit the water, I was met with a massive take. I thought I would surely lose this fish with the many cartwheels and powerful runs, but nearly 5 minutes later, the beautiful doe slid into the shallows and was met by my net.

DCIM103GOPROGOPR3041.
River #1 officially checked off with this pretty doe!

This is where the other hex comes in. As we went to take pictures with the DSLR camera – I realised that I had left my memory card plugged into my computer. The camera has no backup memory on the body itself, so there would be no “high quality” pictures today. I guess the idea behind not carrying a camera has a little merit to it. Luckily I still had the go pro, and was able to snap a couple somewhat acceptable pictures.

DCIM103GOPROGOPR3046.
Shiny fish matching a shiny spoon

After that fish, Mike and I both decided it would be wise to do another full pass of the run after giving it a 5 minute break. Surprisingly, we found a bunch of fish! Unfortunately they weren’t steelhead – but it seemed as though that we had removed the “big players” in the pool, and the trout were now running rampant! It made for a fun 15-20 minutes of fishing, landing a good half dozen of these guys.

DCIM103GOPROG0193133.
Chunky rainbows being aggressive on spoons!

After that, we decided to go downriver and start our drift. After blowing up the raft and hiking it down, we decided to give the launching run a go. I’ve always had a thing for this run – absolutely classic steelhead water. A big pool gliding out into an awesome tail out. The entire run is pea gravel for the most part, but the back-end of the tail-out is a bunch of large rocks. I focused right on this part of the run, as you would have most definitely seen any fish sitting on top of the gravel with the water conditions. I fished through the money part with nothing. I was nearly ready to stop, but continued on. I have found that fish will sit past what you think they will in tail-outs – often even sitting in the chutes or heavy water on the way to the next run (especially in low/clear or pressured conditions). With this in mind, I took about 5 more casts than I probably would have, had this been even a couple years ago. I convinced myself finally that this would be the last cast – well into the chute and some white water. Mid swing, the spoon stopped. By no means was it a freight train hit, and at first I honestly thought I had hit the big rock I could see (or maybe a stick stuck to it). Soon my snag started moving though, and the fight was on. Definitely not as spirited as the first fish, but he nearly took me down into the next run anyway. A beautiful buck, perhaps 10-11 pounds.

DCIM104GOPROGOPR3565.
A big-headed winter buck on a swung 2/5 R&B lure co. spoon!

Funny enough, the rest of the drift was rather uneventful. We covered some absolutely perfect water that I had never seen before – but the fish just weren’t there. We definitely got lucky hitting the fish we did obviously. We did end up with another half dozen of these awesome little rainbows and cutthroat. Makes me want to go back with a 3 wt fly rod next year and some trout beads in the late fall season while salmon are spawning/nearing the end of spawning. Quick little clip of a trout, surprisingly, on a 6 inch pink worm:

 

Overall, the trip went fairly well! I was finally able to check the first river of the year off of the list, and we were able to hit more than one fish in our short outing. Despite the success, I highly doubt I’ll be able to convince Mike to once again leave his cursed boots at home – his feet were pretty sore by the end of the day.

Part IV is now available!: Quest for 20 – Part IV – Second Chances

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