Committing to the dry fly
I know there are a lot of people out there who are not in the same situation as I am, but I've been lucky enough to continue to fish in solitude amid the COVID-19 situation. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time on the water while maintaining social distancing. I usually can find a location without any other cars around to fish by myself, it might not be prime water but maybe at this point, catching a fish isn't what it is about at all.
I started to experiment with a dry fly a few weeks ago to maybe a month. In the last three weeks, I have moved to fish one exclusively, regardless of conditions and temperatures. The fishing is enjoyable and exciting. I recently have made a step toward having success with a dry fly in the Great Lakes.
One of my kittens, decided to play on my chest around 4 am the other morning. When I rolled over and looked at the clock, I thought to myself, "maybe she knows something that I don't."I got up, made coffee, and put my waders on to get to the river at first light armed with Todd's "Little Wang Skaters."
I decided to switch out my equalizer head for my Beulah aerohead since I have one and barely use it. I thought it would be fun.
My first run of the day held a lot of promise, a run full of boulders and a good test to see how visible the little wang is. It turns out that thing is easy to see!
When I got to the end of the run and reeled in, I figured it was time to move to a different spot, so I started to walk back to my truck. I drove around but couldn't find a place that I was happy with containing no cars. I ended up back at the same parking lot, however, armed with new intel. I saw where the first of many boats were located, and if I hurried, I believed I would have the first pass through a pretty good pool before they fished it.
After a half-mile hike through windy woods and branches, I reached the pool, and there were still no boats. That in itself was a success.
I fished this pool last week briefly and then watched boat after boat come through and hook multiple fish in front of me. While this does suck, it's the nature of the beast that is the Salmon River. I usually use this time to light a cigar and observe while sipping whiskey. I try to make a note of where fish are hooked for the next time that I fish the area.
As I left the area that I considered the "hot spot," from my previous observations, I started to doubt if I should continue to fish through the tailout or change flies and re-fish the top of the run. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if any boats were in sight.
"A few more casts," I told myself, "then I'll head up to the top."
As I approached the tail I could see from the surface that there was a large boulder in the center of the river, I would fish to that location and then reel my line in and go back to the top.
A right-handed (non-dominant) single spey landed precisely where I wanted (rare), and I could start to twitch it immediately.
As the fly neared the boulder area, I noticed a flash in the water; maybe it was a reflection, perhaps it was a fish. I've seen that you become more aware of what's going on around and in the water when watching a dry fly leave a wake on the surface.
Seconds later, a boil. In a rush of water, a dorsal fin broke the surface a few feet behind my fly, followed by the entire back half of the fish coming out of the water. The large tail left a crash on the water. My heart stopped and then started racing. I stared at the water for a few minutes while my fly hung down. I fished the rest of the tailout, hoping that the fish would come back, but I had no luck there.
When I got back to my gear that I left on the bank at the head of the run, I sat down and reached for my flask. It had happened, it was like a trout refusal multiplied by 10x. While the fish didn't eat the fly, I felt some bit of success. For the most part, I have a lot of people supporting my effort to catch a steelhead on a dry fly. However, some people will message me saying that it won't happen. The same thing occurred when I started to fish without tips. Either way, I took this as a sign to continue the journey. I might not catch a steelhead for the rest of the spring season, but at this point, I'm having fun with this experiment, and the need to land a fish isn't how a successful day on the water is defined. I'm hoping that as the water warms up, some more cool things will happen.