Sunday, March 31, 2013

Skatin' up winter STEEL!

Got up this morning and found an e-mail from my buddy, Todd Hirano.  Todd has appeared here many times over the past several years.  He's a total nut for steelhead on the surface.  That's how we actually became friends.  He found me on the internet and because I too, am a bit of a nut for getting steelhead on the surface, it seems it was destiny that we become friends.

I have to confess though, when my summer steelhead season ends in late fall, I don't spend a New York second trying to raise another one until I'm chasing early summer fish again the following May or June on the upper Willy, and only then, when the conditions are favorable and that ain't too often in May or June!

Todd, on the other hand, isn't so easily dissuaded, his love of the surface steelhead technique run's a little deeper than this fellow who does need an occasional grab to keep interested.  Udder wise I start twitching a bit!

So here's Todd's story that he posted to spey pages with the images he sent to me; 
Enjoy and WELL DONE Todd! 

"Having committed Bill McMillan's writing in Dryline Steelhead to memory all these years and having been blessed to have some ongoing communication with Bill as well, I have been determined to someday get a winter steelhead on a surface fly. Bill has noted that steelhead metabolisms and activity levels seem to begin a steady rise at around 44 degrees with a peak between 48 to 58 degrees - the prime range to try surface methods, regardless of season. I have given surface methods for winter steelhead a try over the past few seasons when conditions seem favorable, such as when water temps are at least 44 degrees, at reasonable winter flows and with reasonable water clarity.

With the lower than average steam flows and mild, warm spring weather we have been having in Oregon, I figured I'd tie up some fresh foam wakers and give them a try during what seems like an ideal window of opportunity. I've managed to raise, but not hook winter steelhead on the surface in prior seasons.

Well, it seems the stars lined up today 3/30/13. I started off at the head of a little run and after hooking to a little smolt, I continued down and had an aggressive grab as my waker came across the main flow into the softer inside water. At first I wasn't sure if it was a nice sized cutthroat, but after a few headshakes and short runs, I knew it was a little steehead. She wasn't a big bruiser, but just a perfect, yet petite late running hen that had not spawned yet (anal vent not distended). My first winter steelhead on the surface and it felt good. The water measured a balmy 51 degrees on this clear spring morning (raising to 55 degrees in the afternoon).

After photographing the fish I continued down and had another steelhead charge at my fly twice on the same swing but I could not hook it. It felt like fishing for summer steelhead, except there are no summer steelhead on this river!

I knew getting winter steelhead on the surface could be done, of course this has been accomplished by others, but it does take a leap of faith to put the big wet flies away and tying a waker on and going with what can seem like small odds. I also kept hearing stories of folks who were getting their indicators eaten by steelhead this year so I took that as a cue to try surface flies.

Of course, now that I have accomplished my goal of getting a winter fish on top, my confidence is up and I want it to happen again - soon!"