Yes, its true, after all these years on the river I still find new runs. Knowing the river at every flow in every season really makes it about a half dozen rivers, maybe more. Fun to try new things, fun to see that this river hasn't come close to giving up all her secrets. Amazing to think that there are still so many places fish hide that never get touched. I am humbled every time I set foot on her shores.
The wade out to the newly discovered run was tough, and probably not real smart......
The water is fast and pushy, testing my wading skills to the maximum. Several times I look longingly toward shore not fully sure of the task at hand. Past the point of no return, I am committed now and I stagger on. Water is flowing hard around me waist deep, pulling me and pushing me. My feet slide crazily across shelf rock and thankfully grab hold. I walk the tightrope between control and foolishness. A dangerous chute waits far below me, taunting me, haunting me with the possibilities should I make a mistake. I usually don't get scared much on the river anymore, mostly because I don't put myself in the position to be scared. But, I am scared now and it feels good. Its a healthy and respectful kind of scared. All of the sudden, I feel like a kid again, a major dose of adrenalin spikes through my veins. I spy my path through the current and lunge for the high spot that will put me in a position to cast. My cleats dig hard as I lean into the small wave train and find purchase in the nick of time.
I have made it! Now what? It doesn't look nearly as good now that I am here. Why oh why do I do this? What I thought would be a slower inside seam races along, really too fast for a good swing. I scan the water looking for tell tale signs of a dish, a piece of structure, a flat spot, anything. I see a flat spot down in the run, near the limit of my cast. It's not much, but if there is a fish anywhere in here he will be there. I start to cast and swing. I am throwing a big upstream mend and pointing the rod straight out in front of me, even a bit upstream to try and slow the fly down a little. Very slowly dropping the rod and following the fly after the mend, really reaching out there. The swings are fast but as I near the flat spot I saw earlier, I find a 20ft wide slot that starts to feel pretty good. Its a narrow swath but the swings are slower. I am maxed on my cast so I start to slip line into the drift trying to reach that flat spot and keep the fly swinging slow.
After several drifts slipping a few feet of line in each time I am at my limit. With the extra line slipping, I am fishing my fly over a hundred feet away from me now. I make one more drift and the fly line catches some puffs in the current and does not respond to the mend that I try to put in. The fly is smoking through the sweet spot, much faster than I like. I hang on and hope and am met with a vicious take, the big buck coming out of the water instantly as my fly was probably cruising at about a foot under the water. The take came the only place it could have. The little flat spot at the limit of my wading and casting ability. I could never have anticipated how the fish would respond to a fly with that much pace.
He liked it and so did I!
A new fish in a new place, what could be better?
Ezekiel 36:26- And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I met up with my buddy Marty on the river the other day and we had a great time fishing and just hanging out. As is always the case when guides get together, we exchange stories and observations of the rivers we fish and how the steelhead behave in our particular waters. We both shared experiences guiding where clients have hooked fish behind other people. It got me thinking, why are we as steelhead fisherman so adverse to fishing second pass through a favorite run? I mean we all like first shot at a producing run but that isn't always possible. Just because someone has fished through a run first doesn't necessarily mean they fished it well. And even if they fished it perfectly there is a factor that we often forget. Fish Move!
Fish are constantly on the move. Maybe not running hard up the river covering miles but many times they are moving around in a particular run. Fish are lazy and are always searching for a place that they can hold where they can expend the least amount of energy. When they find that temporary spot they may stay for a short time, like as little as a few minutes, to maybe an hour or so. Some will hold for hours or days, even weeks in some conditions. We are looking for the moving aggressive fish not the dour fish down in the trench. I have watched fish come into a holding lie that is a long term parking spot and sit for awhile and then move out within minutes. Why did that fish move from that perfectly good spot? Everything was perfect but he got antsy or something and moved. Steelhead are on a mission and even though they stop in places to rest, their instincts keep them in a state of almost constant movement. These are the fish that are grabby, the ones that are used to moving more, the ones that have no problem moving to eat your fly. These are the fish that move around in a run and are in a taking position when you fish the run. The guy before you fished it well but the fish was not in position or of an attitude to eat a fly.A fish can become aggressive to a fly in an instant if he is in a position to do so.
A number of things will make a fish move around in a run, rising or dropping levels, clarity, water speed, numbers of fish in a run,structure availability or the need to find a mate to name a few. We as fisherman need to realize that this constant movement can work in our favor. We need to fish every run with confidence knowing full well that any swing of the fly through a run may attract a fish that was not in a taking position just minutes before. I see it constantly with the people I fish with. We fish some of the same runs on the same day at different times and we hook fish behind each other all the time. These are our peers who know the lies and the water as well as anyone.
Bottom line is, it doesn't always matter who got into the run at first light. It's the person that is in the right place at the right time when that fish settles into a taking lie and eats your fly. You could be second person through or the tenth person through.
Fish move, so fish with confidence every time you step into a run. Don't let the fear of someone else fishing the run in front of you get you off your game.
Thanks Marty for hanging out with me. You always inspire me to think about these fish in new ways.
Genesis 1:20- And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life........