Catalogue and Conquer – Part XIII – The Bump

As mentioned in the previous post, there was finally rain in the forecast. The day that the rain hit, I decided to go back to one last “low water river” to give it a shot before it would inevitably rise and colour up. I’ve always found this location best in absolutely low and clear conditions. In high water, fish in this large river tend to get pushed to the edges and are easily catch-able by all fisherman. Once the river drops however, the fish tend to spread out all over, and become much more difficult to catch as you need to read and cover a lot of area in a day. When the water drops, I elect to grab the spoon rod. The fish absolutely love metal in this particular watershed, so it tends to provide me with some pretty spectacular days as I can cover a lot of ground working a grid method by swinging.

To my surprise, the fishing was actually rather slow today (for here anyways). The water had already started to rise a bit, and the colour had increased substantially, so I started to think it could very well be a bust. I fished through the first never fails pool with metal, and didn’t get a single grab. That may be a first for me – this pool at this time of year and under these conditions is as close to a guarantee as you can get. Unwilling to give up on the run, I decide to throw the pin around for a bit. I try beads first and get a couple of trout. Next I try a colorado, onto a jig, then a 4 inch worm, and then a 6 inch worm as a last hail Mary. Unbelievably, I still hadn’t gotten a steelhead bump. I turn around to leave, but decide to try one last thing in my box. The white worm has been incredibly kind to me this year, and for whatever reason, I decided to give it a quick go. I’m glad I did. The first cast my float absolutely hammered down, and it took me completely by surprise. The fish still managed to stick despite me not being ready (thanks to the circle hooks I’ve been faithfully using the last two years), and I finally had a fish to hand out of this river (most years I would have had one months ago, but I haven’t been here much this season). By no means was it a large fish like I’m used to catching here, but she made up for it with her beautiful overall condition and pizzazz. River #15 was now in the books, and I started thinking that maybe I could actually land fish out of 20 rivers again for the second time in three years.

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They can’t all be big, but each one you get is beautiful in its own way. An ocean fresh doe to start my day.

After that doe, I decide to go back to metal for the rest of the day; I’m content with that one fish, and anything else will just be a bonus on the day. It doesn’t seem to be a “metal day” due to the conditions, but if I’m being honest, I’ll take one hard grab over 5 fish under the float. I almost exclusively toss spoons on my 6 wt switch rod (built to centerpin specs), with a J.W. Young centerpin on it these days. It gives me all the best things about fishing that I enjoy: a light action rod, a single action reel, direct connection to the fish (without influence of terminal tackle or line drag), and of course – the vicious hits. I’ve also been loving the challenge of it. The more I do it, the more I find myself appreciating a good cast when I nail right where I want it. It’s not easy to cast a 2/5 ounce spoon with no other weight on a pin, especially when we’re talking 100+ foot casts with no back-cast room. The more I do it though, the better I get, and a good cast on this setup is akin to line shooting out of a fly rod to me. The spoons didn’t end up disappointing. I hooked up 5 fish that afternoon, only two of which were steelhead. The by-catch though were nice brown trout which provided some incredible hits and great aerial displays. Even at this size, the brown trout sure can put a good bend right through this light setup! The other bonus is they are one of the prettiest fish around.

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A very chunky brown that looks like it may have spent some time in the estuary. There were a number of really healthy browns in the system this year – something I haven’t seen since 2015 (which again, makes me believe there could very well be a sea run component that come in and out of the river).

The next day after the rains, the rivers close to home were at really nice water heights. Every once in a while I enjoy relaxing, getting errands done, and staying close to home. These rivers typically do get a fairly good late component, so I held out hope that I may be able to get a steelhead on a short afternoon outing. The first river was absolutely perfect water wise, but I fished a large section of it to no avail. From there I decided to spend the rest of my afternoon on another one nearby. I haven’t actually landed a fish from this particular river in 6 years now (despite hooking fish numerous times – it’s another system that seemingly has my number). I used to spend a lot of days here, but over the past few years it’s become exceptionally busy, and the fish numbers have seemingly declined. The only days I spend here now are the ones where I only have an hour or two to fish, much like today. My persistence paid off, and the second run in I finally was able to tail a nice buck steelhead around 12 pounds. I’d finally cracked the curse, and had put river number 16 on the year into the books. I unbuttoned the spoon and took a quick video as he swam away. Satisfied, I packed up and headed home early to relax before hockey.

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A screen capture just before he kicked off. A once in 6 year occurrence deserves a spot in the memory banks.

The next day was a long one. After this drop I decided that I needed to go out for a rip to the west coast to a brand new river. There are a couple other rivers in the area that I had fished before, and done very well on at this time of year, so I figured now would be a good time to explore. I loaded up the yaris and hit the road. Three hours into the drive I got to a spot that wasn’t passable with the yaris. There was a tonne of logging going on, and the heavy rains recently had turned this section of road into a massive mud pit, with the logging trucks also causing huge ruts. It’s one disadvantage of owning a little car, but I can count the number of times this has happened to me in the last five years on one hand, and the thousands of dollars per winter is saves me on gas is completely worth it. For whatever reason, I had a gut feeling something like this could happen, so I had another new backup river already loaded up on the MyTrails app that was nearby. After 20 minutes of driving, I arrived at the backup location. It was a good thing I had a map loaded and a trail planned. I often luck out with my map reading and find the only way in for km’s all around me, and today was no different. I did an absolutely terrible 15 minute bush-crash (or shall I call it salal crawl) before I finally hit a nice open forest. As luck would have it, I found an animal trail that took me down to the river. It ended up being the only access for approximately 3 km into this canyonous system.

I can’t find the words to describe this place. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been on a river that has felt so untouched. No gear, no footprints, no sign of humans having been here. It has towering canyon walls and emerald green water to go along with spectacular canyon pools. I couldn’t have timed it any better – it was just wade-able, otherwise I would have been cut off immediately. It reminds me a lot of two other rivers in the nearby area, and I hoped it would have just as many fish. I ended up hiking down 5 km to another spot that was much easier to get out of. It was a great circuit, and one that I’ll definitely be doing more in the future. Along the way I ended up seeing 3 fish, but only managed to hook one large 14-15 pound buck that managed to take me out of the run and around a snag (which resulted in a break off). Two of the three fish were showing some colour, so perhaps I’ll have to give it an effort slightly earlier on next time around.

I still had quite a substantial amount of time left in my day after that exploration mission, so I decided to hit one more familiar river on the way home. I walked down into the canyon and didn’t see anything in the main run that they typically hold in. I decide to head down to the next run as I have time. I start to piece together my pin rod. This spot isn’t all that great for metal anymore, as the last flood event place a tree right down the middle of the slot where the fish used to hold. A float can be used to fish the opposite side of the log, and then can be drifted past for retrieving, but it pretty much eliminates proper spoon usage. As I rig up, I scan the run and see a fish sitting back past the tree. I stop rigging the float rod up – that one is in a spot that can easily be swung through. As I pull the spoon rod out, I end up counting 6 more. All of them are immaculate – fresh arrivals from the last rain – and a couple are large. As expected, they were all angry, and my first cast in with the spoon had them all fighting over who would get it. Unfortunately for me, the smallest one out of the bunch was the sneaky one that ended up scooting through the others to get to my spoon first. I went on to land her despite her best intentions to get away with 5 jumps and a couple blistering runs that took me a good distance down. She was a gorgeous fish regardless of her size, and was a great way to end the day. I ended up deciding that I would leave the other undisturbed – I was pretty certain that Kitty would want to come back the next day.

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A fresh spring run steelhead

After finding that school, I was pretty content with what I had accomplished that day, and decided to start the hike out. On my way in, I had bypassed the very first run of the circuit (I was excited to get to the bottom), so I decided to take a quick peek into that run on my way out. I was surprised to see another 4 fresh ghosts in this one as well. I decided to chuck the pin for these ones. The water was so clear and slow that I decided to be safe and cast my 4 inch worm a good 200 feet up above them so that the float could approach them without disturbance. I cast way upriver, and start to let it come down. No sooner than my float had drifted 10 feet, I watch one of the fish in the very back end of the tail out start moving forward. That fish will likely go down in history as the furthest moving fish I’ve ever had. He travelled a good 150+ feet upriver in a burst and absolutely annihilated my worm. It was incredible, and hardly believable to watch that unfold. Right after he hit it he burst out into a run and a jump that sent my worm flying back at me. I decide to end on that note, not much could top that one. I left the other three alone hoping that they too would stay until the next day. In my mind, the next day could be a special one if everything went to plan.

 

 

 

One thought on “Catalogue and Conquer – Part XIII – The Bump

  1. I really enjoy reading about your adventures deep in the forest. It’s been a long time [several decades] since I did any serious bushwacking through huckle and salal to get to the bottom of a deep canyon. The best advice I can give a young buck like yourself is to enjoy all your youth and energy while you can. Tight lines my Canadian friend !

    Like

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