Quest for 20 – Part VII – Swing… and a Hit

To start from the beginning of “The Quest” go here: Quest for 20 – Part I – The Intro

Rain is a funny thing. It’s something you desperately hope for at times as a steelhead fisherman, but we definitely have our “requirements.” It has to be just right – not way too much, and not too little. It has to last maybe a few days at most, as anything more can keep water coloured and high, and put a damper on future efforts. Ideally, I’d love to see 15 mm or so of rain every second day for the entire season – with maybe a big downpour or flush every couple of weeks. Of course that will never happen, and living on the west coast, we often fall into the “way too much at once” category.

In my last blog post found here (Quest for 20 – Part VI – Unexplored Water), I talked about how we had just gone through an extended period of low water, and how we had now received substantial rains to finally bring levels up. Mike and I hit the little rivers we wanted to, perfectly timed, on the drop – and of course it paid off. Now the real problem with “too much at once rain,” is that the small flows don’t hold water well, and will drop rapidly in only a few days – whereas the large flows hold water too well, and don’t drop at all. This provides a unique situation where nothing is really in “the wheelhouse” and presents an awkward in between situation where it can be difficult to find fish. The days you can hit the little systems on the drop though are always the most rewarding in my opinion, so it makes the wait during the awkward middle times worth it.

Cool spotting on a small river winter doe
A very uniquely spotted, pretty winter fish from a small stream

It was now Saturday, and being that day, it was Kitty’s day off to fish with me. I was given the difficult task of finding a river that would be under ideal conditions for our best chance at fish. I decided on an area that I hoped will have held enough water for fish to be still encountered, and aggressive. Upon our arrival, the river was way too low already, and Kitty only managed to miss one unidentified fish, and landed a summer run.

Off to river number two – our backup plan. We arrive at the money stretch, and apparently one other party had a similar idea. We fished through with our spoons, hoping to pick up a fish behind them (which happens more often than one would think – especially if the first people through were using float gear or spey/fly fishing techniques). After nothing through the first two runs, I was already debating on where to head to next. At this point, Kitty suggests another river that I hadn’t even really given thought to. Based on past experience with that river, it needs to be low, way lower than what it is (being a fairly large river) for it to be worth hiking around and putting a day in. I figured it’s a long hike in to be cut off at the first spot. My brain was going 100 miles per hour, but then I remembered that a close fishing buddy of mine had told me he went in there once at high water, and had done really well in the one single pool that we typically come down at for summer runs and coho. I looked at my watch, and it was nearing the end of the day anyway – and while we knew this river had winter runs after getting a couple last year, we had no idea of what run timing or run size was (so this would be a good opportunity to add to “the journal”). A 30 minute walk in and out (plus our drive there), would only leave us an hour to fish anyway. Kitty was pretty adamant on going, and with the knowledge of only a short fish available, and the potential for that one pool to produce (as it has in the past for people I know), we made the gamble to go.

As we walked through the forest and down the rock slide we found a couple years ago into the canyon, the bush opened up, as always, to reveal the first spectacular run. The water was absolutely perfect, a nice green tint and around 8 feet of visibility. I have only ever seen this river crystal clear, so this was actually a nice change. This run is absolutely perfect for swinging metal – so out come the spinning rods and the old trustworthy spoons. As I rigged up my spoon rod from an earlier break off, Kitty takes her first few casts down into the run. Immediately she gets a hit and hooks up a beautiful winter fish that she loses in a jump. Her next cast, she hooks and lands a nice rainbow as soon as her spoon hits the water. The following cast, she misses a hit, before landing a small summer buck – obviously there’s going to be a mix of fish here today (this buck actually ended up being the only summer run of the day). Her third cast, she finally lands herself a pretty winter doe, which marks off river #3 for her.

A unique blue eyed doe
A rare, blue eyed winter doe is the first winter of the day to the beach

Right behind us, there is an opportunity for a cool photo. With the very recent rains, the canyon we are in is full of a number of huge waterfalls. It provides a very unique and really, a pretty spectacular setting. One last pic of Kitty’s prize and the fish is released back into the emerald green pool.

Kitty showing off a beautiful fish in a beautiful place
Kitty’s third river of the year

Next it was my turn… and it really didn’t take very long at all to knock off river #6. Thinking this had the potential to be a great hour of fishing, I started the camera after Kitty’s first landed fish. Below is a short little video of my first cast into the pool, followed by Kitty trying to “double up.”

Luckily, as seen in the video above, I got my hands on my fish just as Kitty lost hers. It gave the perfect opportunity for me to also get the one of a kind waterfall backdrop shot.

This spot proved to be productive in helping me land a steelhead out of my 6th river on the season
A great backdrop photo for my 6th river of the year!

Once I had landed my fish, I was quite content filming for most of the rest of the day. In all honesty, numbers don’t mean much to me at this point in my fishing timeline. As long as I get to tail a single fish out of each river I go to, I’m completely content. Plus, the scenery here was absolutely stunning, and not much in this world is better than getting to watch your beautiful wife putting the hurt to a bunch of feisty, beautiful fish in a setting like this while laying back on a nice cobble/sand beach/bar; and of course, Kitty didn’t complain. She had her own personal photographer sitting back as she hooked and landed fish after fish.

Chunky doe on a copper/orange R&B 2/5 spoon
A super chunky winter doe on a 2/5 copper/orange R&B spoon
Kitty's third river of the year produced multiple, beautiful fish
One of the many beautiful fish Kitty was able to land this day in a spectacular setting
A gorgeous backdrop
An awesome canyon backdrop typical of this system – also the reason this river has very little pressure, as finding ways in can be both frustrating and dangerous
A pretty doe eyeballing the hot spoon of the day
A little winter doe eyeing up the lure of the day – the copper/orange finish from R&B lure co. 

After Kitty had landed something like 7 or 8 more fish, I decided to try and get some “float down” footage by chucking a pink worm through the back. I took video of Kitty doing a good 10 or so drifts with no luck, so she went back to the spoons. I decided on one more cast, and as luck would have it (with the close-up float footage camera put away), I hooked and landed this perfect little doe – by far the “nicest” fish of the afternoon.

Chrome cheeks and clear fins
Chrome cheeks and clear fins

Dark was now closing in on us. Kitty didn’t want to leave, and really, I didn’t blame her. This very well could have been the best single hour of steelhead fishing I’ve ever experienced in my 9 years so far. Who knows how many fish were actually sitting back in this tail-out, but they were super aggressive with the higher and off coloured water, and nearly every cast at least produced a hit. I lost count of how many hook-ups we ended up having, but as darkness closed in we had 10 fish to the beach. Just as we were about to leave, Kitty and I sighted a fish sitting way back on the rock. I figured I’d try to film it as Kitty took some casts. Her first cast in his vicinity, the buck decided the spoon didn’t belong, and promptly tried “removing” it from his area. It turned out to be the last cast of the day after landing him as we were not pushing our limits for nightfall – a great last cast it was.

After the buck, we started the long walk out. Nearly dark by the top, and with Kitty getting nervous (as she always does while walking out in near 0 visibility), we finally reached the truck. Had I given into Kitty’s “one last cast” requests any longer we may have very well been walking much slower using the light off cell phone screens.

This trip ended up being our first double digit fish day of the season, in the shortest time fished, in the most unexpected area. This is why I love this sport – conditions can change at any given moment, and you can go from a completely bust day, to one of the best days you’ve had in just a matter of hours. It also goes to show how much of a impact a different point of view or perspective can have. While my experience and well kept journal entries would have never considered this river under these conditions, Kitty’s suggestions and coaxing, without a doubt, saved our day and made for some incredible memories.

I hope you enjoyed reading this little snippet on the Quest for 20 as much as I enjoyed reminiscing on this day and going back through all the footage I took. It really was a great experience, and gives me high hopes for the rest of the season!

Stay tuned for part VIII!

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3 thoughts on “Quest for 20 – Part VII – Swing… and a Hit

  1. […] After our last day where I checked off river #10 (Quest for 20 – Part IX – The Halfway Point), things were pretty slow on the “new river” front. Not many places were in shape, so Kitty and I elected to go try a river that I had checked off, but she hadn’t yet. We arrived that that particular flow to find it higher than we liked, and very busy. After a couple hours fishing that river, we decided to salvage our day and head to a river we both had – one that we did very well on the last time we went (that trip can be read about here: Quest for 20 – Part VII – Swing… and a Hit). […]

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