With the last trip with Kitty being a success (check it out here: Quest for 20 – Part XII – Kitty’s Push), and my buddy Joe coming out to the island for his first ever winter fishing trip with me, I decided that it’d be a good idea to head back up to Marc’s area for the few days he was out and explore both some new water, along with some old favourites.
I wish there were some epic stories to tell about this whole trip, but it didn’t go that way at all. I completely failed at getting my buddy into anything. I was stunned. Just a couple days ago there were fish in every single river we went to, and now this three day trip only provided 2 hookups between the three of us. The rivers had dropped out fast, and it seemed we were much too early for the few new flows we explored. Luckily Joe was a good sport, and he enjoyed the hiking and seeing new waters. We also got to give him a little taste of how crazy we are when trying to find access into new places! The trip provided good comradery and scenery though, so it wasn’t a total loss.
To make matters worse about that three day skunked trip, I got a report from my one buddy back home that the flows in our area were absolutely “going off,” with him having a 20+ fish week. That report gave me a little life though, as it gave me an idea for a starting point for the upcoming weekend with Kitty.
Early Saturday morning, Kitty and I started the drive out in the direction that my buddy had done well. One river isn’t really a favourite of ours with the pressure it constantly receives, so we went past it. The next one has been having a really rough year, so we continued over that one as well. The third river was one that Mike had done really well on a previous day – too well. It’s small and doesn’t get a tonne of fish. Him stinging 8 in the low water, with the water still continuing to drop probably wouldn’t provide a good day, so we continued further yet. We finally arrived at the river of choice; it’s a river that we haven’t done well on in the past, but were going to today on a hunch since it was in the right “area.”
We suited up and started walking up from the access we had discovered in the past. The first few runs didn’t provide anything – as usual – so we continued up. As we approached the run that has held fish nearly every time I’ve been here, I grew anxious as I wondered if the fish would once again hold in the same little slot. We get to the spot and I peer in where they normally sit, and I’m pretty sure I see one again! Sure enough, Kitty’s first spoon cast provides a chase, and her second cast provides a good hook up on an absolute bar of a buck around 6 pounds that pops off after a short tussle. I continue looking on and see one more in there. Kitty tried a few more spoon casts to no avail, so out came the pin rod with the little orange bead on it from last trip. My first cast over the shadow I can see in the run, my float drains. I set the hook and a chrome bar flashes in the depths. The fight was relatively quick being a small fish, but she’s absolutely perfect looking.
As I hold her in the net, I see she’s a hatchery, which isn’t something I’d expect here, being that the river doesn’t even have a hatchery on it. I decide that I’d give her a rock shampoo… but something didn’t seem quite right.
As I held her, she felt really “loose” and looked a little too skinny to me. I give her a small squeeze just before killing her to be sure. In the past, on the river nearby that does have hatchery fish, I have often been fooled around this time of year by “chrome spawners.” For whatever reason, these fish seem to come into the river and spawn within a couple of days of entry. Sure enough, she spat a few singles on the light squeeze. With this new knowledge, I decided to release her to finish up what she had obviously already started.
We threw a few more casts through the run with nothing happening, so we walked up to the next area that has held them in the past (fishing our way up with spoons and pink worms). Kitty’s first run through with the spoon she misses a massive take almost as soon as it hits the water. As she continues reeling in (after missing the hit), I see a large flash behind the spoon, and seconds later it circles back and takes again. A large buck in the 13-14 range goes absolutely haywire and pops off on the third jump. We fished the pool a bit more with nothing to show. After that we decided to continue up and come back to these spots after they’ve had a bit of a rest. No more steelhead above the last successful run, but we did manage to get a handful of nice cutthroat.
After playing with cutties for a while, we worked our way back down to the last place we hit a steelhead. Kitty tried a spoon again with nothing, and then figured we’d switch to a trout bead. A couple more nice cutties came to hand, and then she missed a really good float down. I figured it was a steelhead, but it never came back. On goes the 6 inch pink worm, and it worked! Float drains and she’s into a fish larger than the first one! It goes nuts again, does a few good runs, and a couple of good jumps. Mid air in the third jump (again – that third time’s the charm seems to be working for these fish today), we see the worm come flying back as the fish does a number of twists in the air – gone. After hooking two out of this spot, we figured there wouldn’t be many more, so back down towards the car we went.
As we fished down again, I decided to give the trout bead another go instead of the pink worm. I figured I could have fun with the cutthroat on the way through since they seemed keen on them today. Kitty fishes ahead of my with the spoon, and I work the water behind her with the bead. We get to one tail out that looks awesome, and I take a half dozen or so casts working it really well. By this point Kitty is pulling away ahead of me, so I decide on one last cast. Right near the end of my drift in the tail out, the float bobs. Funny, it hasn’t done that yet, and I’m fishing pretty shallow. I go through again and the second time it goes down hard. I set the hook and to my surprise a chrome steelhead flashes around the run a few seconds before popping off. Damn. I call back up for Kitty since they’ve been sitting in two’s or more today it seems. She comes up and runs her pin through. First cast through, on the same drift around 15 feet earlier on, her float disappears as well. One of her best fights of the year ensues. The fish left the run, and as she tried catching up on it, her line went slack. We figured it was gone and she nonchalantly reels in as she asks if I saw how fast that fish took off. As we talk I look down in the water to see a fish go flying by me upriver, followed by her float that was now creating a rooster tail in the shallower water. She still had it on! I haven’t seen a fish travel that fast in a long time. She finally catches up on it again and instead of its previous running matches, it takes to the air. This time Kitty made it through all three jumps, and guides the fish to the shallows. A couple anxiously missed net jobs on my part, and we finally have the fish in hand. It’s an absolutely beautiful doe.
Kitty was absolutely elated, and for good reason. She hand landed an immaculate fish on another new river and was that much closer to both of her goals set out for the year. We continued on down, and once again I hit and lost another large steelhead on the stupid little trout bead behind her using metal. Maybe there is something to these trout beads after all… More investigation will be needed, but I’m quickly becoming a believer in them on picky fish at this point.
The next day we decided to hit another river in the near area, one that we had heard “legends” of back in the old days. We arrived at the first bridge to find two old timers taking a few casts. We chatted with them for a while and they too told us how great the river was back in the day before “four huge landslides caused by logging that have completely filled the river in.” They went on to say that we would be lucky to find a fish, and that we’d be disappointed with the water we would find. They gave us some access points though, and sent us on our way.
Those two old timers weren’t joking. Gravel bars well over a kilometre long in some places and well over half a kilometre wide. The river was maybe 200 feet wide in it’s biggest points, and most of the runs weren’t even 4 feet deep, even with good structure present like rock walls/shelves. As we walked up, Kitty commented on all the wolf tracks and scat, and how fresh they looked. I figured probably a couple days, but definitely fresh. Not more than 20 mins after we had talked about it, we were cutting across a massive gravel bar to a run at the top end. I looked out in the middle and cocked my head a little – were those wolves? Just as I was about to say something to Kitty, 6 wolves that were sunning themselves stood up. I knew I had to act quick with the camera; I immediately dropped my bags and got it out, as wolves typically take off as soon as they see humans. 4 of the 6 did just that – 2 of them stopped. I was able to snap some pictures and take a couple really short, shaky video clips. After a while, the 2 wolves started advancing on us a bit, something I’ve never seen in my previous 4 encounters. At this point I took a good run towards them, making myself look large with hands up. They stopped briefly, dropped their heads, and then kept advancing – something that again I wasn’t expecting. Soon they were too close for comfort. I packed our stuff up and Kitty and I walked backwards out into the middle of the river facing them. By the time we were in the middle, the wolves were not more than 50 feet away, standing right on top of our footprints. I’ve never seen that before. I was pretty happy to see them turn around after. That cut our day short, as at this point, I wasn’t sure if they would continue following us. Regardless of no fish and terrible water, that was definitely a once in a lifetime encounter that I will never forget with those magnificent creatures.
After the one good day, the water continued dropping even more, and another cold snap ensued – snow and all. Soon almost every river was too low to fish. This made for some extremely challenging conditions, especially since most of the “good when low” rivers had already been checked off. Time to go back to the drawing board and see what we can come up with until the next rains hit!
What did we do next? Check it out here!: Quest for 20 – Part XIV – The Drought