Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is this why Steelhead love to eat leeches?

Look closely around the edges of this gorgeous natives gill plate.

Yesterday I had an open day and an invite to join my good friend, Todd Hirano on a trip to the coast.  We went to a small Coos County, Oregon stream and had a blast.  It gave me a chance to do some experimental work with my Ambush lines to see how well they would work with indicator / nymphing techniques.  Turns out they worked great.  Todd fishes dry lines and large iron, "winters hope" patterns on the swing. 

Also, I'm still trying to learn how to take decent video with my little hand-held digital video recorder.  I still suck at it. 

We worked our way into this wonderful, fishy little run.  Second or third drift through for me and my bobber goes under...HARD.  I lift the rod and feel the surge and power of this fish;
Perfect. Clean. Awesome!

A few minutes later, Todd comes through the run with his "winters hope" and this event happens;

So I understand why a steelhead would eat an egg pattern.  I get why they crush sculpins on the swing.  Big wiggly Intruders, tandem tubes and the like probably remind them of squid from their time in the ocean.  Skaters on the surface make sense too.  Green Butt Skunks, Silver Hiltons and other standard steelhead patterns? They all leave me scratchin' my old bald head.

But after bringing Todd's fish to hand and seeing all those nasty, writhing, undulating, blood-sucking leeches!  PLEASE!!!! Now, I know why steelhead love to eat black patterns and especially black leech patterns!  I wanted to pluck everyone of the leeches off the fish, but ultimately, they deserve to eat too...I guess.

All the years I've fished for salmon and steelhead (over three dozen years now) I've NEVER come across something like this.  Not in this particular watershed, or any other for that matter.  I've occasionally seen leeches on other fish.  Bass and Trout are two that come to mind.  Obviously I've encountered lots of salmon and steelhead with numerous sea-lice in various locations on their bodies over the years.  Some years they really get covered in them little critters.

If anyone else has seen this type of infestation on a steelhead, give me a call, shoot me a message or e-mail.  I'm really curious to know if others have had a similar experience.