steel heading (a story)
not sure if any one is interested in this but it seams every fish/hunting book i have, the last page is used for a little story of an experience that one had shared that sort of brings back memories or makes us laugh. hope this isn't breaking any rules!!
Every one that knows me well knows my passion is trout fishing. From the solitude of a small creek filled will brookies, to the more open streams for anxious rainbows. I just enjoy walking down a stream casting for brookies, unaware of human presents. Theyâ€™ll dart from nowhere to take a fly drifting and most times it will be as soon as the fly hits the water. Just the way they dart, thrashing their body, trying to tear the hook out of their mouth. Fighting little guys Iâ€™d say. Then the rainbows, the breaking of the surface water after taking dries and feeling the point of a hook. Jumping out of the water again and maybe again, thrashing there heads in mid air trying to throw the hook. Last but not least the muscle of trout, the brown. Heâ€™ll take a nymph and take you deep, changing directions underwater without notice and powering his way to test your lines strength. Itâ€™s not only the catch and release of these fish but the enjoyment and solitude. Time to relax by yourself and dream.
Being born in April, just a week after the first day of trout season here in Pennsylvania, I usually take 2-3 days off. I donâ€™t work on my birthday. I even put this day as a day I cannot work when I applied for my last two jobs. My junior and senior year my Grandpa and I were down at the nearest trout stream fishing for the day. There just couldnâ€™t or wouldnâ€™t be anything better.
Though friends, hunting palâ€™s Iâ€™d see once a year, or friends of friends would try to convince me Steelhead fishing is just as much fun if not more. Mario, a hunter, fishermen, gun enthusiast and a long time friend of my grandfather and I, would try to convince me to go Steelhead fishing. He used to say that once I have gone and caught steelhead, Iâ€™d forget about those small trout in the streams. But than again he also said that fly fishermen, waving that buggy whip in the air in the middle of a river, looked like an accident just waiting to happen. My friend Bud used to try to get me to go also.
I always had my own good excuses not to go though. For one thing itâ€™s cold out!! Real cold! November, December, January and February cold. Now I know what your thinking. I hunt in cold weather donâ€™t I? Sure, but that is hunting season! If I can hunt rabbits in a fresh mowed field in the springtime I would. If I could hunt dear or bear with a rifle in fall, sure I would. Cackling pheasants or when Iâ€™m hungry for a squirrel during the summer, well maybe. Fishing in frigid weather? No way. Thatâ€™s one reason I donâ€™t ice fish. I can wait â€˜till spring.
Besides during hunting if I get cold I can make a fire, stay warm and still keep a look out for game. I canâ€™t imagine the looks Iâ€™d get having a fire going on the bank of a steelhead stream! There I am sitting by the fire warming my fingers so I could tie another fly on. Waiting for a steelhead to pop its head out to say, "hey, here I am, come get me." No thanks.
Then there are the crowds of people up there in Erie I heard about. Shoulder to shoulder, fishing in two to three feet of water. Someone hooks a steely and everyone brings in their lines until the guy either lands the fish or it breaks off. Or like on the first day of trout, youâ€™re the only one catching trout and all of a sudden two bait casters, three spinning outfitters come plopping an assortment of gold, silver and bait in the hole you had all to yourself a second ago. People in a hurry to catch the next fish out of the hole, lines getting tangled and etc. wow! I better calm down.
Next thereâ€™s the fly patterns, if you want to call them that. Jeff showed me a few during our fishing outings. First there are egg patterns. Theyâ€™re in all colors, neonâ€™s, fluorescents, reds and yellows. They look like flavors I used to get out of a bubble gum machine! Sucker spawn? White, cream, pale colors that look like lint out of your belly button after hunting all day with a brand new sweat shirt on. Then thereâ€™s patterns called crystal meth. These look like the prize earrings youâ€™d get in the bubble gum machines. I can just see the faces of the spin and bait casters, along the stream, as I call down to Jeff, "hey, theyâ€™re hitting on crystal meth, you want some?" Boy I thought it was hard figuring out trying to match the hatch for trout, or picking up streambed rocks to find nymph remains. How do I figure out which egg, spawn or meth pattern to use at any given moment? Or should I say which flavor?
Anyhow, early this year during the late winter run Jeff finally talked me into going up to steelhead fish with him. I tried not to get too excited. It seams when you canâ€™t wait to try something new or expect the greatest time youâ€™ll ever have doing something new, it just fails miserably. I did hit the nearest fly shop to get some expert opinion on what gear Iâ€™ll need that I may not have. Iâ€™ll need at least a 9â€™ fly rod. 8wt preferred but 7wt minimum. Iâ€™ll need strong leader material and lots of weight. Last but not least, STRIKE INDICATORS! Letâ€™s face it, strike indicators are nothing more than bobbers. Maybe they are of different materials but they are still bobbers. It just sounds a little more prestigious for fly-fishermen to call them indicators than bobbers.
Jeff set a date for the weekend. I checked my general fly tying manual and tied a few green butt skunks, roe patterns and double egg sperm flies. I laughed the whole time I was tying. Thursday I went down to the local wall mall and dished out 34 odd dollars for a 9â€™ 8wt. Rod, 100yrds of 20lbs backing and split shots. I wasnâ€™t sure I was going to get hooked, as they might say, on this steelhead thing so I started out slow and inexpensive. I had an old wf7f fly line and a mid size reel that would hold the fly line and 100yrds of backing that the steelheads will reel off on their long runs?!
I met Jeff off of I79 and we headed for Walnut Creek. He gave me some of the egg, meth and spawn patterns. We waded under the railroad tunnel in about 6" of water and we were met with about 8 fishermen surrounding a pool of deep water just below the waterfalls spilling over the cement bottom of the tunnel we had just walked through. To shorten the story I had caught nothing, not even sure I ever got a strike. I even tried a bobber, oh, a strike indicator. Jeff landed 2. The most excitement was while I was drifting an egg pattern in the deep pool, after waiting my turn, a loud snap and then a twang echoed over the pool and through the tunnel. Just a second or two a steelhead leaped completely out of the water towards the far bank. Splashing as it re-entered the water and then torpedoed back out towards the tunnel falling just short of the falls. I could swear, at the one angle, I could see a spinner of some sort hanging out of its jaw. I looked over to my right where I first herd the snap, like the sound of the bungee cord breaking when the coyote jumps off a cliff trying to snag the roadrunner, but the cord snaps instead of retracting. There stood the twenty year old holding his spin casting rod in his right hand. The rod stood as straight up as could be, I remember not even seeing any line through the eyes of his rod. His other hand was extended down with an expression of â€˜what the hell just happened!?â€™ Then the fish propelled its self back out of the water and disappeared on reentry. No one said a word. Funnier than that, within the next half hour, for no apparent reason, that same steely, I presume, jumped 3 more times!
I still wasnâ€™t hooked
We went again a few weeks later with Jeffâ€™s brother Kevin. I left Clarion in the early morning in brisk cold weather. Weather report suggested warmer temps later in the day. No snow forecasted. By the time I met up with Jeff off of I79, there was at least 2" of snow on the ground. After dropping off my van where we planned on fishing Elk creek we headed to the local bait store. Kevin doesnâ€™t fly fish so he wanted to get some minnows and skein. For the heck of it I bought another â€˜strike indicatorâ€™. After we got back to the fishing spot we geared up and I followed them through the woods, through 4" of snow, down to the ice-cold stream. Daylight began to rise and along with previous boot prints, deer tracks and a lone flushed grouse wing print appeared in the snow under the pines.
"I should have a gun in my hand instead of a fishing rod?" I said
"Youâ€™ll have fun" Jeff replied.
After fishing for about an hour of nothing Kevin started hooking up with steelies using the skein. I eventually gave in after Kevinâ€™s 4th hook up, and borrowed some. Luckily, I just happen to have some bare #6 2x long straight eye hooks. What can I say, I like catching fish, if I know the fish are biting on something I donâ€™t have after trying everything I do have, I go to what works. I ended up catching 2 steelies on the skein. The second headed head first, like a submerged torpedo, down stream. When I felt the fly line turn a little rougher across my cold fingers and seeing orange line running up my bent fly rod and then out the tiptop, it was time to start heading down stream after him. He held up just before another fisherman in a small pool behind a boulder. I landed about a 23" by nudging her up the shore bank with my foot.
Before lunch we met up next to Kevin. While we were contemplating about lunch and where weâ€™ll head after noon, Kevin hooked up again only this time with a minnow. Jeff baited a minnow on a hook on his fly line and hooked onto a steely also at the same time I was tying on a bead head white wooly bugger. I casted just down stream from Jeff after he landed his fish. Bingo, I hooked up also to an 18-19 incher. Just in them few short minutes all three of us scored. Things like that make no common sense at all. No logical conclusive conclusion. Oh, how I love fishing. Being at the right place at the right time using the right, so called pattern. By the end of the day I hooked into and landed a hooked jaw male about 25". 2005 early steelhead fishing ended.
I was hooked on steelhead fishing. I bought a wf8f fly line along with a wf8I clear fly line. 8lb, 4â€™ steelhead tapered leader and 7 Â½â€™ and 9â€™ 2x tapered leader. Strung that on a mid arbor reel and Iâ€™m was ready.
By now I had a few fly boxes dedicated to steehead fishing. The first fly box has a clear front cover and measures about 5" x 8". Looking in it, it resembles gumballs and jawbreakers in an assortment of sizes and flavors. Thereâ€™s a row of pastel colored sucker spawn that still resembles lint, only some with a little flash mixed in, And crystal meth patterns with lime green and fluorescent pink bodies. A few gray bodied â€˜muncher nymphsâ€™, along with some odd colored stoneflies. Bright orange roe patterns and these purple perils. I just tied these to complete the spectrum of colors.
My other fly box is a 4"x 6" streamer collection. Upon opening the green covered fly box your eyes awaken to another variety of mixed colored neonâ€™s, fluorescents and pastels. There are a few bead head copper johns, and a couple of Tedâ€™s stones. But what really catches your eye is the far out wooly buggers.
Back in the late 70â€™s and 80â€™s there was a fad of owning troll dolls. They came in a variety of different sizes the more popular they got. They came on key chains and even small enough to be in dime to quarter gumball machines. You know what Iâ€™m talking about. They were buck-naked and their hair was stringy and combed straight up in the air like fight promoter, Don King. They had a straight-eyed stair and a stupid little, Alfred e. Newman grin. They were, some thought of, as a sort of lucky charm. I used to see a lot of them at church bingo when I was a senior. The little old lady bingo players would set them up above their bingo cards next to pictures of their grandkids and rabbit feet. The trollâ€™s hair was neon green, neon orange, neon lime, bright red and so on. I guess until the steelhead craze hit, most of those trolls have been just sitting around collecting dust in some old childhood shoebox.
Once you open my new steelhead fly box now, shazam, there they are. The hair shaved from atop those darn unlucky trolls. Wooly bugger bodies with neon and fluorescent troll hair tails!!! Look, Hot pink, fluorescent orange and bright red. I can just imagine all those left over troll dolls now, hunkering around in some old discount storeâ€™s back room. Inside an old cardboard box, waking up from a deep, deep sleep and finding that they were all shaved bald! Buck-naked and baldâ€¦ ~jerry