As you’ve been following along with my “Quest for 20,” Kitty has been doing her best to work towards her own goals. Since she fishes around half as much as me (probably much less than that actually), we decided that going for 10 rivers in the season would be a good goal for her. She also decided that she would try and get fish out of 5 rivers that she had never caught steelhead from before. This next stretch would be crucial in order for her to achieve either of these goals.
It all started the following weekend. Kitty and I looked at a few different options, and decided once again to go back to the same area (mentioned in my last blog here: Quest for 20 – Part XI – Two at a Time) as she hadn’t checked off any fish, and I was confident I’d be able to help her find a few there. The very first run we went to was loaded with fish – including one we could see that was an easy high teens. She had a chance at the big one, but he never fully committed. Soon she was into one around 8 pounds, but it popped off after a short run. Not long after, she was into another around 10-12 that she had on for a good long time before it finally gained its freedom. We never got another fish from that run, despite being able to see a good half dozen more fish in there. She was pretty frustrated, but I assured her the next run would probably provide one, so we packed up and headed down.
The float didn’t make it more than 3 feet into its first drift in the next run. She set the hook and missed. A few casts later the fish came back (as expected). It was huge, and in a bad spot (the spot is pictured, and described in the caption below).
The fish went absolutely nuts. It cartwheeled a couple times, showing us its impressive size. I’d give it an honest mid teens, with the possibility of going high teens. It took off out of the run, and I immediately knew Kitty would be in trouble. I tried getting her to put the breaks on it, but excitement and the unwillingness to break it off took over, and she let it run hoping it would stop and maybe turn back. Soon the fish was 200 yards downriver and into the backing on her pin with no chance of bringing it up through the cascades below. To make matters worse, the fish had gone around a rock. Not only did that fish break off, but it chewed up the entire mainline pretty good – hopefully it would hold up for the rest of the day.
At this point Kitty was pretty upset. Three chances at fish, and only really one chance to land one that didn’t materialize. I assure her that all of them were in difficult spots and it was still very early in the day – only a couple hours in at most. We decided to go from there to yet again another section I had never explored on this system.
As luck would have it, the first access point I mapped out on google earth worked out for the second time in a row. It actually ended up being the only access down into the canyon for a good 3 km stretch of river we walked (it’s becoming pretty helpful to be able to properly read maps – plus good luck on my side). Spectacular water, but surprisingly, no fish in the first few runs. Walking along the canyon edges was tough, especially with some massive old growth trees that had fallen that were so big they were impossible to get over… so under it is.
We eventually get to the one run upriver that looked good. Kitty elected spoon tossing, and I picked up my pin. My first cast in I got a massive hit. I reeled in and my suspicion was confirmed, it was indeed a fish, and it ate my pink worm and left me with a bare hook. At that point I told Kitty to try out her pin at it while I re-rigged. She missed it right away, so rather than rigging back up, I went to filming. After a couple more missed attempts, she finally stuck the fish. The fish appeared to be done it’s fight, so I put away the camera and grabbed the net. Just after I tried to net it the fish went crazy and did a good handful of massive jumps and a few more runs before hitting the net. Regardless of no good jumping clips, we were still able to get a picture of Kitty’s stunning specimen.
All of a sudden Kitty’s day had gone from disappointing to awesome. We decided to walk up a couple more runs with the new found energy, but only sighted one other fish that wouldn’t bite. Although we only found one fish down here, it was good enough to check off yet another river, and it is awesome water to check again earlier in the season in future years (with the possibility of being a great coho area).
The next day we decided to go out on a whim and head out on a two day trip to a different area where we would meet with a buddy. Upon our arrival, Marc was just getting back in off a river close to home. He told us he had hit and seen a few other fish, so we followed him back out. Nothing in the first 3 runs, so we decided to fall back on original plans with the intention of coming back to this current river at first light tomorrow.
We arrive at the next river, and we decide that we’ll each run a different thing. I threw a pink worm, Kitty chucked spoons, and Marc threw a trout bead behind for the hell of it. No more than a quarter of the way through the first run, wham, Marc hit and landed a nice little buck.
Soon, he missed another one. At this point I was baffled and asked for a bead. I went up to the head, and my first cast I missed a massive float down on the same drift my pink worm had gone through! I couldn’t believe this. I hate beads and never use them (mostly because I never had luck on them), so them kicking ass currently was really throwing me off. I somehow missed the hit another 4 times before Marc got the fish from right under my nose (my only redemption that made me feel slightly better was that he lost it!).
After that we worked up and got to a big corner pool with an eddy on the outside. There’s a shallow shelf of rock between the eddy and the actual run – making the eddy somewhat disconnected. Kitty asks if she can throw a cast in there. I respond with, “go for it, but I highly doubt a steelhead will sit in that frog water that isn’t really connected to the main channel.” Did you guess that she made me eat my words? Three casts in her rod corked over, signalling that she was in to a good fish. It bull dogged around and went on hard runs for quite some time before finally meeting the net at the beach. Kitty’s fifth river was now checked off – and her first river towards her “Quest for 5” at the same time.
After that fish was my favourite run that almost never fails me. First cast in my float hammers down and to my surprise I have actually hooked a fish on this stupid little trout bead. I get it almost to the beach, and it pops off just before the net. Damn… that would have been river #13 for me. After that everything went dead. We fished up quite a ways further with nothing to show, but at least two of us had gotten fish to the beach with a few other hookups.
The next morning came early, but we made it out to the river just in time for first light, and to be the first anglers at our run of choice. Marc tells Kitty, “right there, behind that rock, is where I spooked out 6 steelhead yesterday with the fish I had hooked.” Kitty threads on her chunk of roe and casts out, hands shaking. Near the end of her first drift her float goes down. The hook set provides nothing. She looks and Marc and I and asks if it was a fish – we both think that it was. Her next cast, around 5 feet earlier on in the same line, her float drops hard again. She connects this time, but loses the fish after a few flashes. Devastated she asks if we think there might be one more… maybe. A few casts later she has another weird float down, but she was deep and close to the clay shelf, so we wrote it off as clay.
Kitty decides to go down into the tail out and try there, as they often sit there as well (I actually caught one in there earlier in my quest: Quest for 20 – Part VIII – Persistence Pays). As she fishes, Marc goes through and swears he missed a float down on a bead. I finally am ready to go and go through with roe as well. My float goes down, but comes back with all the roe, and I’m not convinced it wasn’t bottom (I’ve been practicing the art of not setting on fish to give chances to whomever I’m with – I tell ya, it isn’t an easy thing to do at times!). I shorten up a couple feet, and in the same spot my float drains again, and this time after I let it pop back up, it comes back with no roe. Fish for sure. We call Kitty back up and say, “it was a fish you missed earlier when we told ya it was clay, and we left it there for ya, get it.” Her first cast on the same line the fish grabs it again. She fights it skillfully this time after the good hook set, and once in the net we see it’s a perfect hatchery fish.
Being that it was a nice hatchery fish, Kitty decided to keep it and end her day on this river on a high note! This allowed me to get a couple artistic kill shots (which I rarely get the chance to do anymore being that we are 90% catch and release these days).
With there obviously being fish around, Marc asks if Kitty minds if him and I fish up 5 more runs before we head out to the river we were going to next. She’s ok with it, so we head up. No sooner than the first cast in the next run, we get a chance at another fish, which I miss. A few casts later Marc misses it. It goes back and forth a bit with misses between him and I before I finally pin it (it felt good to get one behind him this time after he did it to me yesterday). It ends up being a wild buck – and luckily Marc has his brood tube. The hatchery was in dire need of bucks for brood, so this one was donated to them.
After that fish, the next few runs didn’t produce anything. We elected to head for the next river after another half an hour of angling.
The next river is one that intrigues Marc and I. We heard rumblings from an old timer once that if you hit it right, it can easily provide double digit days with fish up to 18 pounds. We hit it last year late, and I only managed to lose one large buck, but we fished hard for that one fish. We will be hitting it almost a month earlier now, and it should be at a good height after the rain two days ago – perfect for moving fish.
Long story short, we put in a long day of hiking right up to the barrier with only one rainbow to show. On the way down, we decided to try the “rainbow run” again. Kitty ended up hitting another rainbow, and then to our surprise (after about 5 mins of spoon chucking), hit an absolute bar chrome steelhead doe around 5 pounds that popped off just before the net. We concluded that we were too early with fish like that just showing up. Back to the drawing board on this one.
At least the trip in the whole wasn’t a bust. Kitty ended up not only checking off two rivers in two days, but also two new ones! I didn’t get any, but there’s still a lot of time for me…
Quest for 20 – Part XIII – The Trout Bead Saga is up next in the Quest for 20 blog series! Check it out!!