You know that place, that place in a run that just feels and looks fishy? Some call it the bucket, I like to call it the Sweet Spot. Over the years I have found many of these places on the North Umpqua. Places where I know fish live on a consistent basis. I have discovered these places after years of hard work and trial and error. Some of these places are obvious to all and others are more subtle. Currents and structure must be studied and fished at multiple water levels to uncover all the secrets that these kind of places hold. Any sweet spot in a run will obviously move in relation to current and water flow Most often this movement is length wise as the size of the sweet spot will grow smaller in higher flows. There is always an optimum level that occurs where the sweet spot is at it's maximum holding capabilities and fish are drawn there because of the ease at which they can rest and seek protection. When watching a fish holding in one of these areas at the perfect flow they expend little energy and are usually rested and grabby to a swung fly. In those places, both obvious and not so obvious, I fish techniques that will show the fly to a holding fish in the best possible way. This may include several different styles of swing. I may start with an upstream dead drift of a dry fly over the holding area first, followed by a more sideways type presentation, followed by a more traditional down and across swing. Any one of those could work on a given fish.
There are times when you are fishing down to a known sweet spot and you just know you are going to hook up. I can't explain it but those of you who fish much have had the feeling. It is a combination of doing the right thing at the right time in the right place with the right fly along with a years of experience that tell you a fish is just about to grab the fly. I can't explain it. If you know you know. It happened 3 times on a recent trip. The first time I was fishing a run where a buddy had just hooked and landed a fish. I started in where he left off and was immediately in the sweetest spot of the run. I had a strong pull on a drift that was so in the zone it barely fazed me. I expected it. The fish grabbed but didn't stick and I knew he hadn't been stung too hard if at all. Getting the fish back in the cold water was not a for sure and I knew it. He may not have been stung hard but he may not move again. I stood mid current for a moment and decided to change to a brighter fly. I gave the fish time to settle and slowly changed out my fly. It had been three or four minutes and I reeled in 10 feet of line and started back in. After a few casts I had lengthened the line back to the point where I had the first grab and the fly swung through and nothing happened. This particular sweet spot was quite large due to the lower flows. For some reason I felt that the fish was still there and would grab and I continued to move down the run. I was 5 or 6ft past where I had gotten the grab and I got that feeling. I KNEW I was gonna hook this fish. The fly waggled through the sweet spot and the fish took hard and exactly where I thought. Sure, I had a good indication that a fish was there by the first grab but I hardly ever have the feeling that I KNOW I am gonna hook up. It's just not reality in steelheading and if you think you are gonna hook up on every cast you will be disappointed. The fish ran and jumped multiple times and was a great bright fall fish of 7-8 lbs.
The second fish was in a long riffle run below the fly water. The level was perfect and I could fish the entire thing and was getting great swings. The top was a shallower long riffle and sort of fast, transitioning into a choppy section that started to increase in depth. After that was a broad tail that had a very interesting flat spot on the far side that screamed "Sweet Spot". The depth was perfect, the flow was perfect, the structure was perfect. I absolutely knew I would hook a fish in that lower section the first time I walked into the run. It killed me to work my way down to it but there was so much potential, although not as perfect water, getting down to it. My eyes kept drifting down to that flat spot on the far side. I got closer and the feeling of hooking up got stronger. As soon as my fly entered into that flat, sweet seam on that far side, I knew I was close. A couple more drifts and I was swinging through the heart of this sweet spot. I was holding my rod firmly fully expecting a hard grab and I was not disappointed. A 10lb wild buck grabbed with enthusiasm and went for the tail out the Farlex protesting loudly. After a short battle I released the fish back into the depths.
The last fish was a fish my buddy hooked. We walked into a run and I said to him, "there is a fish in here for sure". He knew it too as we both looked at the run knowing full well that no one had fished it in weeks. Both of us had landed many fish in this run before at this time of year but this year being a bit tougher than normal we should not have had the feeling we both did. But we did. You could just tell it was gonna happen, it was very plain to see. You could actually feel it in the fall air. After about 3 drifts I was not at all surprised to see from my high vantage point, a beautiful fall fish move to the fly and hammer it.
Another fish, another sweet spot. We trusted our instincts, went with the tried and true methods for the conditions and were rewarded. Knowing these sweet spots, and how water levels both attract fish to and repel fish away from them and when to fish them shows that pool selection is a crucial part of the game. We were in the right place at the right time but we also had supreme confidence in what we were doing at all times.
You may not hook a fish every drift but you need to fish like you will when you get into the Sweet Spot!
These Sweet Spots can come in many varieties,shapes and sizes. All are to be enjoyed!
I thank God for the many "sweet spots" in my life.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Tight lines my friends!
And you know what? It doesn't matter how you do it.
Fish in a manner that is pleasing to you and let others do likewise. Don't be so dogmatic in your approach and keep your options open to learning from others. Also, be open to teaching and sharing when those opportunities arise. Be kind on the river. Stop and say hi to someone you don't know or to someone you have seen on your river and never spoken to. Slow down, look around a little. Enjoy the surroundings. They are always awesome!
Lately it seems the fly fishing world has just gone plumb crazy. I have seen more division among people over fishing "style" in the last few years than I have seen unity. It seems there are more things that have entered into our fly fishing lives that can sneak in and seek to divide. Don't let it happen.
However, it's not all doom and gloom and we need to remember that we have much more in common with our brethren that fish the fly than differences. We all, myself included, need desperately to get back to the roots of a simpler and less frenzied way. A way in which we can come together once again, put the silliness and our petty differences aside and rally around the common goal.
The rivers and the fish should always be center stage, when we as humans try to take that limelight away and put it on ourselves we fail every time.
Working on this in my own life, still work to be done.
Here is a good reminder.......
Philippians 2:3-6 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. ...
Now go swing a fly!
Had a great time on the river recently. These pictures give you a little window into what I got to experience on this last trip to the river with great friends. Fishing was as good as I have seen it lately and as usual you had to get out there and cover a lot of water to find them. We found fish in odd and out of the way places. The tried and true spots were not giving it up so we fished some weird stuff. It worked. We had the river to ourselves and we found willing fish every day.
It really is. Lets be serious about this thing we do called steelheading. We all like hanging with the bro's and spending quality time on the river blah, blah, blah, but hey, WE NEED TO GET BENT! I enjoy the outdoors as much as anybody and it doesn't take much to keep me happy out there but sometimes you need a grab and the ability to pet one every now and again. Face it, if there was no chance of catching a fish we would all have quit a long time ago. It's the chance that it may happen in the next cast or in the next run or in the next day or the next week that makes us keep putting the funny pants on.
We don't have to catch fish every time we go out and we don't have to catch a ton of them but any encounter with these fish is spectacular. The numbers are dwindling in almost every water shed on the west coast and our impact to the environment is clearly evident. We want to steward the resource yes, but we also need some confirmation that these elusive creatures still swim free and strong. Any action we see out there however small, gives us the knowledge that we can still be connected to these amazing fish. We need it, we crave it. We dream about it. We talk endlessly about it. A pluck, a grab, a rise, a drive by, a boil, a toilet flush, a good yank and ultimately a loudly screaming reel is what we seek. Lets not kid here. Anyone that says they are content to cast all day and have no action and catch nothing is fooling themselves. Man was made to pursue these fish, it's in our blood. Deep down we are all predators, admit it or lie. The hooking and landing of the fish is what drives the steelhead fly fisherman's engine. It's OK to say you like to hook fish.
My tank is low right now. I have not been able to fish as much as I would like lately but that's OK. Family and work have had top priority. But the next time I get out there for a good session ( which is coming) you can rest assured I will be fishing hard and fast and searching for something to spin my Farlex.
It's about the fish man, it's ALL about the fish.
That being said, God always holds first position.......
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Great George Harrison tune here by Davey Knowles of Backdoor Slam
The smoke curls off the Lancero and dissipates into the clear and crisp air of the land of the Nez Perce. Dinner is over and it is time to bask in the afterglow of a few drams of single malt and the fading light of perfect late summer day of fishing. A full harvest moon looms on the horizon, playing hide and seek behind the wispy clouds that signal the front of an on coming storm. All is still and quiet, except for the occasional horn rattling from rutting bucks in the adjacent field. Then slowly, from across the table from me a voice says
"You know these are the exact brand that Castro smokes"
"Wow, its no wonder he likes these" I say two and a half hours later as the best cigar of my life still burns strongly. Simply amazing......
That is just a snapshot of one part of a fantastic week with great brothers. The places we fished, the things we saw, the brotherhood of like minded anglers and people that we encountered could fill a book. The Big River is wild and unpredictable. She is selfish at times about giving up her secrets but with time those secrets will slowly be revealed. There was action and there were fish hooked and landed but that hardly mattered. As my friend Marty said so well, and I quote " Catching a steelhead is always the goal, but it's not the point". As I grow older and move between the seasons of my life, that statement rings truer and truer every day.
Fishing there is about long lines, long rods and long casts. Don't kid yourself and try and cover those far off lies with a short head line and a 13'6" rod. The main reason is, because you can't do it, especially with any consistency. It is a lesson in futility. Get the right tools for the job and go to work. Getting perfect turnover to the fly every time at distances in excess of 100 feet is no easy feat and one that I aspire to become better at. It ain't the North Umpqua by a long shot and it takes me awhile to get out of my bucket hopping, ADD mindset and settle into some 2-4 hour cast and step sessions. I am out of my element but yet can find the groove after a few sessions and make these longer lines and rods work for me better and better the more I fish them.
So challenging and yet so relaxing at the same time. The Big River moves at her own pace, and you must become tuned in to what she tells you. All other rivers have their challenges but the Big River makes you reach down deep to a place that other rivers don't require.
My words and ramblings do little justice to the magnificence that is the land of the Nez Perce.
Until we meet again........