Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Steelhead on a Dry Fly

There are steelhead rivers that have a reputation for piscatorial wanderers
that "look up" and under the right conditions take a well skated dry fly. BC has a few of them and I've been fortunate to skate a fly or two on a number of its more hallowed waters.  My past two seasons hosting trips to BC weren't exactly conducive for fishing period let alone a waking fly.  Historic rains blew most of the regions rivers out, rearranged some, deluged fishing lodges, towns and airports. We were fortunate to at least be able to wet a line during those tough years.  Many were not so fortunate. For those who pursue these mysterious fish, such challenging conditions are not unusual.  They are part of the game. 

In BC, the Morice River is one of those waters that has a reputation for its surface oriented steelhead, yet I've never had the opportunity to skate a fly across it's broad reflective runs under conditions that were conducive to a dry fly.  This year was different.  Upon our arrival, we found a river system in stark contrast to the previous several years: warm water temps, low and clear as drinking water.  The Morice could't have been in better shape. 

If there was a day to have success skating dry flies this first day with its overcast skies and threat of rain couldn't be more ideal.   My fishing partner, however isn't as confident in the waking fly and quickly challenges my decision by sticking two fish early on light tip, yet sparse fly.  His reel screaming and acrobatic fish that cartwheeled out into the tranquil pool offered little consolation in my decisions as my riffle hitched flies skated ignored throughout the morning. As the day warms my fortunes change.  I don't see the first take mid-river currents yet the line briefly tightens when a steelhead  grabs the fly.  

The next encounter comes from the tail out of a deep placid run, the boil unmistakable, the sound of my old Hardy breaking the morning stillness evidence of the dry flies success. For the time being, my partners reels have gone quiet, as the bright hen breaks the early afternoon stillness. We connect for a moment before going our separate ways.  Several cast later a nice buck  cartwheels across the same tail out before coming unpinned.  A third steelhead brings my line under tension three more cast into the same run, yet  distracted I flail at the unexpected yank.  As I continued to enjoy success throughout the day my partner switches his methods, unfortunately for him all too late.  

This first day reminded me of those initial years fly-fishing for steelhead when all I ever hung in front of a steelheads face was a waking fly.   Times have changed, however.  Today there are a lot more guides and jet boats. Between the boats and the way today's fly casters fish for steelhead, most of the times we're waking on their heads.   That's OK.  I didn't get into fly-fishing because it was easy.  Same goes for chasing steelhead.  Today's dry line challenges have me looking for new water, exploring little nooks, crannies and unsuspecting pockets that are barely big enough to swing a well tied fly through.  That's all good since over a decade now of fishing this way it's become my game, regardless of the conditions. I may not always catch the most steelhead, but then again I might! The tip guys aren't too stoked when I do....

After fishing water the color and texture of carmel for the past two seasons in BC to see the tops of ones boots in three feet of water lent refreshing enthusiasm for a change. At my age under such favorable conditions it keeps me from stumbling as much.  That in and of itself can be rewarding. On top of the great river conditions this year: weather, scenery, then to sting a bunch of chromers on a waking fly left me with one of the more  memorable steelhead days I've enjoyed in some time.  I hope there are more days like this in store for me in the future.  Should there not be, I'm simply grateful for the ones I've already had.  

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