Catalogue and Conquer – Part XVIII – A Finishing Touch

After finally finishing off the brood collection, it was time to spend my days much closer to home, on the Vedder river. I typically avoid fishing it. It’s super busy, and Covid has actually made it a much busier April than normal this year. Everyone is laid off, and fishing seems to be the one way that you can still go hang out with friends while easily social distancing. It’s also the one way people have chosen to get out and to keep themselves from going stir crazy at home.

At this time of year, I really enjoy fishing metal, but the number of people out right now makes it really difficult to work my way through the runs as I normally do. Despite the high numbers of people, and the fact I wouldn’t be able to utilize my favourite method properly, I decided to still make it out there one day with Sam. It actually turned out to be a fantastic day with a good dozen hook ups. Despite the crowds, I was still able to fish the heads of the runs, the soft water edges, and the very tail outs that the float anglers were largely ignoring. I managed to pick up three fish on metal fishing the stuff other people were avoiding. It was great to see fish in such marvellous condition (and these kind of numbers) still entering the river this far into the spring. The rest of the fish that day were largely on roe under a float. It’s amazing how much of a difference a simple 6 inches of depth change can make when compared to the angler in front of you. Most of our fish were directly behind people. Changing your depth constantly isn’t something that’s hard to do, but a large majority of anglers seem to ignore that simple thing that can literally 10x your catch numbers. It’s a good practice to start 3 feet shallower in depth than you think the run is, and then re-adjust depth up by 6 inches every couple of drifts until you’re tapping bottom. Depending on the day the fish might want it shallower or deeper – today they were hugging the bottom!

20200417_100420
A doe that was caught in less than 12 inches of choppy water at the head of a run on a swung R&B spoon. The Zebra rod has been getting quite a workout this season since I picked it up! It’s quickly becoming one of my favourite set-ups to use! This doe checked off my 21st river of the season.

After seeing so many fish around the one day out, Kitty and I actually started to go out in the evenings after I was off work. By the time I was off, most people had left the river, and it was actually really pleasant and quiet out. Most days produced at least a couple hook-ups. We also found it to be a really good way to get out and see friends. We’d go to the upper river, set up a nice campfire with a bunch of seats spread out around it, and just hang out. Of course, Kitty and I also brought the rods along each evening for a few casts, and Kitty was able to check off one more river to bring her total to 12 on the year!

Kitty buck lift
A nice little buck on a quick evening fish was Kitty’s check mark for her 12th river of the year!

Soon, the end of April was here and the rivers were all starting to close down. At this point we switched to lake fishing, and started to poke around some rivers still open for an early summer run or two. In early May I managed to have three hookups with chrome, hot steelhead in just two trips. I assumed they were all summer runs, but the one fish I did land (the third one) ended up being my latest ever “winter run” fish I’ve landed (May 11). She was still in great condition, and fought splendidly, but her soft belly and extended egg vent signalled that she wasn’t more than a few days away from spawning. In this picture in fact, you can see that her eggs are likely all loose – there’s a notice-able bulge between her pelvic and pectoral fins as I tilted her tail upwards – a good sign that her eggs are already moving around inside her abdomen.

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My 22nd river, and my last “winter” fish of the 2020 steelhead season.

It was quite the year overall. It started off incredibly slow, probably slower than any other season I’ve lived through. By the end of December, I had almost written it off completely as a bust. At that point I hadn’t even tried yet – I stuck to trout fishing; my buddies on the other hand spoke of many long fish-less days that deterred me from venturing out. In January, the fish started to trickle in just as I started my season, and I got super lucky with my timing on a few systems. Realistically, I didn’t have many “good” days. I had to work hard for a lot of the fish I did get, and managing to land fish in over 20 different rivers is still something I can’t believe I achieved again. Kitty’s season with 12 different rivers to hand (7 new ones to boot!) is even more incredible, since she only had limited weekend trips available. I would have never guessed back in December that either of our seasons would have even been close to this successful. There was an incredible amount of luck involved. By no means was it a good year for fish – I saw a mere fraction of what I normally see in a year.

To be clear, I only really talk about the “successful” days in my blogs – mostly in an effort to keep the number of entries down, and to keep readers interested in my long ramblings. I fish a lot, probably a great deal more than I should. This year I fished over 30 rivers. I hooked fish in 26 of them, and landed fish in 22, but that represented a great deal of effort and past knowledge on many of those systems. When I say knowledge, I’m talking about 10+ years of journal entries on water heights, timing, etc. Without so much past experience, I’m confident I wouldn’t have gotten even half of the fish that I did. I didn’t find fish every day out, and I really hope it doesn’t come across that way. I’ve been incredibly fortunate over the years to have so much time to chase these fish in the winter season (something that I’ll look back on fondly as the years progress). This past year was the first time ever where I’ve actually felt a sense of hopelessness for my favourite winter pastime. These fish are most definitely vanishing. It doesn’t matter that someone you know had a good day or good season. This was perhaps one of my best ever seasons as far as me finding fish in new places/everywhere I went in general, but I’d go out of my way to state that it was the worst season I’ve ever seen for these special fish numbers wise. Sure, each river had a few around, but almost all the systems I frequent were mere shadows of what they were even just five years ago. There’s a couple of really “special” rivers that I haven’t seen a fish in now for 3 seasons – whereas back as recently as 2017, those same flows produced up to 20 hookups a day. It’s not for lack of effort, one of those rivers in particular I’ve visited 15 times in the last 3 years (under ideal conditions) without seeing a fish. I hope that I’m wrong, and that this was just a very “off” year, but indications from the summer runs as I’m writing this (mid July) are painting a grim future for the 2021 winter season.

Thanks for reading along, and hopefully numbers will remain good enough that more of these blogs can exist in the future! Until next year, enjoy your summer fishing adventures!

Here’s a little sneak peak bonus of some of the summer fishing we’ve experienced thus far, since so many of you have tagged along until now:

Kitty pennask
A nice Pennask from our second lake outing
kitty up close pennask
A beautiful 6 pound pennask that put up quite the aerial show. It may just be Kitty’s largest interior rainbow trout so far!
big buck keepemwet
A beautiful summer run buck from early June.
doubles smiles
I don’t normally find good numbers of steelhead in May on the island, but this day was quite the exception!
perfect steel
This was a cool fish. We decided to explore a bunch of water that we had never done before, and came across this incredible looking run. It looked too good to not have a fish. Sure enough, I watched this one chase Kitty’s spinner in (after another much larger one had missed it), and it ended up grabbing a mere few feet from her rod tip. A super hot fish, not more than 6 km from the ocean, and in stunning condition!

 

 

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