Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Phantom Fish

            Once in a while you get a tip from a reliable fishing buddy that turns out to be a jaw-dropping experience. A friend of mine from Kalama, Washington called me one evening and said that the Eastfork of Lewis River was loaded with a fresh run of winter steelhead. The next morning I drove to a good fishing hole above Day Break Bridge where I parked my rig just at dawn. In nervous anticipation I rigged up my nine-foot Orvis Rivermaster, put on my waders and fishing vest, and headed toward the river.

            The water I was going to fish was located below some pocket water that was broken up by boulders, fast chutes and riffles that mellowed out into a long run. I could almost sense the presence of fish. I waded five feet out and peered intently into the water to spot some fish, but nothing was clearly visible because of a slight tinge of silt. I began casting my ten-foot sink-tip line with high hopes.

It took almost an hour to cover the water all the way down to the tailout and I never had a strike. Were the fish still in the lower river or had they already passed through?  Maybe I had the wrong fly on, or maybe I needed to change to a different line so I could cover the water better. With a low morning sun beginning to grace the water, I tied on a new pattern and I waded out again to work the run with more intensity. However, after another hour of fruitless casting I reeled in. Suddenly, I saw two fellows in a drift boat floating downriver and within minutes they drifted into my water. 

“Hey, you guys,” I yelled. “Are you catching any?”

“No,” one of them hollered. “We’re from the Fish and Game and we're just counting fish.”

“No kidding,” I said. “You know, I’ve been fishing here for over two hours without any luck. Could you tell me if you can see any fish in this water.”

After several moments of searching one of them said, “Well, so far we can see at least ten right under our boat!” 

As they drifted downriver I put on another fly and started casting feverishly. Sometimes in order to catch steelhead you have to have patience, persistence and a hard-headed attitude.  I caught and released one steelhead later that morning.          

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