I've been meaning to hit up the river that runs through town and that I ride my bike along every day on my way to work. There are a number of shelves, riffles, runs, and deeps that look like interesting places to drop a line into. Last week I went for a jog farther south along the river where I don't go on my ride to work, and I saw a spot that I really liked. There was a small island separated from the main bank by some still water along and for some reason I always like these sorts of places. It's probably because I know I will not be surrounded by trees, which is pretty common out here on the banks in Oregon. I vowed to fish this spot soonish.
Last Friday I took my fishing gear to work with me and headed out after work to the river. I biked with my gear on my back down to the spot I had scoped out earlier in the week. I had my waders and boots so I put them on, even though the water was probably warm enough to wet-wade. I moved downstream to the bottom of the island, stowed my empty backpack on the shore under a tree and moved down below a long shelf. The shelf poured water into some deeper, slower moving areas I figured held some fish. I put on a big Possie Bugger and my classic go to, a pheasant tail dropper and started throwing them a few feet up from where the shelf dropped off.
Instantly, I started catching things. Unfortunately, "things" weren't fish. I began pulling up caddis larva pods on about half my casts. The problem was my Possie Bugger was just too heavy and sunk too fast for the slow moving water. However, I was too lazy as I often am to change my top fly, because that means cutting and retying two knots instead of one. In retrospect, I suppose it's not that big of a deal but I pretty much always avoid changing my top fly until absolutely necessary.
I took my stuff a little farther up river where there was a nice seam between some faster moving water and still water, that was at least a couple feet deep. I tossed my bags aside, removed some of the weights I had on, and fished the slower moving portion of the water. I caught one or two smaller fish that wiggled off the hook when I pulled them out of the water, which was fine. I also caught a decent sized rainbow and things were looking up!
I landed the carp and shot a quick pic and moved on with my life. Although I did have to laugh some at the experience and surprise of catching a carp here. It wasn't what I had expected, and I was a little surprised that he bit on the little emerger I had just tied on. It was hooked to the front of his sucker in a way that was not a snag.
I kept fishing the area and got no more bites in the slow moving water so I started moving my casts out farther and farther. The sun was getting low on the horizon but there was still ample time. Within another dozen casts, I got another strong bite. The fish fought in a lazy manner, just like the previous catch. I figured there was no way I caught the same fish twice in just a couple minutes, so there must be a pod of carp feeding in the area. He even gave a splashy top-water fight occasionally.
But then I managed to get him in sight, which was when I realized it wasn't a carp. It was a total shocker, but I had a 24" steelhead on the end of my line. Perhaps a little back story is important here. I moved to Oregon in February and have not targeted steelhead because I know pretty much nothing about them other than that they are just big rainbows that apparently live in the west and east coast rivers. I had assumed you had to target them like fishing big streamers through deep pools, but that is not so. Apparently any idiot can catch a steelhead.
Except I didn't manage to catch him. After a 10 min fight I got him in close to my net for the third time and he ran for the third time. Unfortunately this time the pull on my rod let go and my line shot back behind me. My bottom fly, the emerger, had pulled off.
My first mistake was that I was too lazy to change my leader, which was a 5x, and I always like to go a size smaller for the tippet to my dropper so as to only lose one fly in case of snag. Catching a big steelhead on 6x (that would be 3.7lb test for non-fly people) is probably not advisable. But the big mistake was when I had tied my dropper on, the knot slipped as I snugged it down. Generally that means you didn't tie a great knot and if you pull it will keep slipping. At the time I gave it a gentle tug and said "eh, good enough." Well, Mr. Steelhead, the first steelhead and biggest trout I've ever hooked, told me it was not good enough.
Live and learn.