It finally happened after our long dry stretch (Quest for 20 – Part XIV – The Drought). The skies opened up, and all of the rivers came up substantially. Luckily, one of my two fishing buddies who normally lives a good distance away was out on a commercial boat. Commercial fishing for Herring was slow, so Marc was able to do a short trip with me. Only one river was really fish-able, so we headed up to there. After the long walk up, we arrived at our starting pool. The previous 12 trips on this river, where we have fished our way up the entire time have never provided much of anything, yet we’ve caught steelhead out of this particular run every trip thus far – so now we just walk straight to it and spend more time covering the good water from there up. Today was no different. Three casts in Marc ties into a beauty (on nothing else than a trout bead of course). It takes off out of the run, and after pushing it off a couple down trees with my net handle on two occasions, the leader finally had enough and broke on the third tangle up.
We continued up to the top most hole, and again, I told Marc that this is pretty much a guarantee. We fish through it well, and I hook and lose one behind him on a 6 inch pink worm surprisingly. Soon we hit the money spot in the tail out. To say the spot was frustrating today would be an understatement. One of the reasons I hate (or have hated) trout beads is because they seem to have a low hook-up percentage for me anyway (any one have tips for me?!). Marc missed three hits and was beginning to question me on whether or not it actually was a fish. I told him I was 100% confident. He finally connects after another few misses (the fish actually hooked itself on the fifth float down) and a beautiful fish comes to hand. Like Kitty, he is on a “Quest for 5” new rivers. This was his fourth new system of the year.
I tossed the pink worm through the slot next and missed a couple takes that never came back. Soon they didn’t want the worm anymore, so I too switched to a trout bead. I couldn’t believe how picky the fish were. It was less than 3 feet of visibility, and yet the fish shied away from the spoons and pink worms and only wanted the beads. We eventually had hooked 5, and it was time to leave – all on beads except one. Another big eye opener for me!
A couple days later, the rivers came down enough to warrant a trip out. Conditions weren’t perfect, but once again we had gone from the low water extreme to being blown out every two days. I had to settle for slightly high, especially with another 50 mm of rain forecast to hit us starting this afternoon. Herring fishing was so slow that Marc’s boat had completely stopped, so I convinced him to come with me for today before he headed back home.
Two rivers were on the list today. The first is one that normally peaks early, but does get a late push as well. It’s been very slow this year. Logging has ravaged this system, and they’ve now logged nearly right to the water’s edge at my favourite run (which also happens to be a pretty significant barrier/holding pool for winters). Not more than 20 trees separate the river now from a massive scar that extends well over a km long and wide. It’s hard at times to ignore it as well, it used to be such a pretty spot to fish, but now the shrieks of equipment and carnage left behind make it even hard to stomach coming here and I often drive past it now.
We head down to the run with low expectations. We try pink worms, trout beads and ghost shrimp jigs through to no avail. I throw the spoon as a last resort. To my surprise, I’m met with a solid hookup down in the tail out. Had I not put 17 pound leader on my spoon rod starting this season, there would have been no way I’d have landed this fish. Ho took off way down into the tail out and out through a set of rapids, with no way to chase him. I managed to bring him back up. Even at the end of the fight he wasn’t quite done, and I managed to drop him even after tailing him which doesn’t happen often. He was quite the old warrior. I had presented this question to my instagram: He’s for sure a winter run, and we hasn’t a kelt, but do you think this old coloured boot warrants being “counted”? The vast majority said to include him on my river list, so I present to you river #15.
Once that pool was done, we elected to leave and fish the next river. There were a few more other spots that we could have tried, but the rains had already started, and we knew the rivers in this area coloured up fast due to the clay in the logging roads.
We arrive at the next one, and surprisingly, don’t find any fish in the first 3 runs that typically hold fish. One run coming up though that I call the “Lower Cable run” has fish more often than not, so I’m holding out hope. Sure enough, upon our arrival, I sight a fish in the run. Marc and I both cast at him, and he elects to take the pink worm over the trout bead for once. Just like that, river #16 is also checked off the list for me.
As you can see in the picture, the rain was already coming down pretty good at that time. Literally within 15 minutes of that picture, the river went from sight fish-able 10 feet of vis to less than 4 feet of visibility and pea soup. We continued up to the Cable Run and Upper Cable run hoping that the fish were in the area, but neither of them held fish at this water height. One more creek confluence run that always holds fish is just upriver, but it would take a lot of work to get to. Typically we wade this river back and forth, but today it was much too high. This meant that a canyon descent of over 300+ feet each time was needed for every run. Our fourth up and down, topped off with some bush whacking, finally got us to the creek confluence. By now, the water was down to maybe 2 feet of visibility, and our confidence was fading fast. Despite the height and the clarity, the run still looked awesome. I sat down and watched Marc fish for a while. He flogged it with a pink worm and trout beads to no avail. He eventually was confident that he had covered it, and we elected to hike out and see if we could beat the clay down. Just before leaving, I decide to take a quick spoon toss. The first cast, just as I started to retrieve on the hang down, I was met with a massive smash. I couldn’t believe I had managed to hook a fish on metal in this water. It turned out to be my largest fish ever from this system, a solid 34 inch buck. Again, without 17 pound line this would have been a lost cause. He went absolutely nuts, fighting more like a Chinook than a steelhead with his shoulders out of the water while blazing down and across the run. He only made one mediocre jump, but the fight was memorable regardless.
Later on in the day, we went further upriver and managed to hit a few more fish out of one more run, but none of them made it to the beach. Marc ended up going 0/2. One of the fish actually hit so hard that it took his float 15 feet upriver, rooster tail and all before he even managed to get a hook-set. Eventually the river was down to less than a foot of visibility and we no longer had any confidence in fishing, so we headed home. It was still a successful outing with two new rivers checked off my list, pushing me well within reach of my 20! Would this mean that the spring run steelhead had indeed showed up in all of their rivers? Find out here: Quest for 20 – Part XV – The Late Runs.