Our tributaries are in dire need of precipitation. Water levels are scary low and the water itself is very clear. It's a very good thing that we have tannin-stained rivers. Despite that, all the steelhead talk this past weekend at the MN expo had me yearning to get out. I got to the river at about 6:15 and was the only person there. After about a 3/4 mile walk, I was at the first run I wanted to fish. On my second cast I hooked and lost a nice, bright looking fish. It was an experimental day. I was testing the Sharkskin Magnum Taper, using a Superior X-Legs and rocking a white Thingamabobber (thinking stealth). All new to me for steelhead. After that hook-up things went quiet. Very quiet. I walked roughly a mile of river and only saw one or two fish that didn't look nearly as fresh as that first one. Nearing the parking area, I sat down on the bank and re-rigged. I took off the indicator and nymphs, added two feet of fluorocarbon and tied on a Fire Tiger Wiggle Minnow. We use this fly all the time for smallmouth and have had some success with them on our big lake-run brown trout. It's basically a foam cylinder that, when swung or stripped, wiggles just like a FlatFish on or near the surface. I crouched down in front of an area that consists of a big cedar dead-fall with a deep hole in front of it. I didn't see any fish but they're always in there. I started teasing the Wiggle Minnow right along the dead-fall and after a few casts a big shadow appeared just behind my fly. Three more times this happened, but none of them made any kind of commitment. It was like they were curious, but not aggressive towards it. I gave up on that spot and tried one more. At this spot there is a foam line and an eddy with a shallow riffle running next to it. I noticed one fish out near the riffle and two others in the eddy. I crawled up above them on my hands and knees and made a long roll cast across and down. As the fly neared and passed over the fish, one turned and followed it about eight feet. My heart was pounding. The fish turned to head back to where it came from and then did a u-turn, sped towards the fly and inhaled it! I resisted the urge to set the hook and waited until I felt pressure. Once I did I set the hook. She swam confidently upriver until I put more heat on her. Then she freaked and shot downriver. After a few minutes I had her at my feet. I took a quick picture and cut the line. She was hooked too deep to risk hurting her or keeping her out of the river too long. I've never spent much time fishing flies on the surface for steelhead but this fish will change that!
Posted by ns at 12:57 PM