Several friends and I have been playing a game of sorts on the river for a very long time. It is a game that nobody wins and a game nobody loses. It's a game of the mind and one that takes some practice as well as a good poker face. It's a game that you often don't know you are playing. It's a game where you hope the other guy doesn't know he's playing.It's a game that can agitate and infuriate, it can also make you laugh. The rules are simple, be very vague about where you are catching fish.I won't say we lie per se but we do embellish(bad spots) or down play(good spots)as the case warrants.
On a river like the NU,where runs are so visible it is hard to hide from your buddies that know you and where you like to fish. We all know when something is working for one of us when we see him in XYZ pool off and on for a week straight. But upon further inquiry around the dinner table later when asked what's going on in XYZ pool, the person that has been caught will say something like "Yeah, I've been in there a little but but they don't live in there like they used to, it's really filled in". This could mean one of two things, he's been rippin um in there or they don't live in there like they used to and it's really filled in, it just took a week for him to find out that info. Now you can always go and see what it looks like and make that determination for yourself or believe the person.
Trying to fish the runs you like, trying to keep hush hush about what's working, and keeping an eye on where your buddies are fishing,and fishing consistently becomes a real circus.This is where the game gets fun. We are all mining for info all the time. We all know the river so well that it doesn't really matter what your buddies say, we will all find fish. But,the thing is we all want to high grade and fish the most productive water we can, especially if we have clients.If I can get some reliable info that will keep me over fish I'll listen and take it. It's deciding what is true and what is a bluff to throw you off that is the game.
I could say I have been doing well in ABC pool on dries and in reality haven't gotten a sniff in weeks in that pool. The pool that really works for me on dries every time is DEF pool.But I ain't telling them that, at least not yet. Maybe in a few weeks when it quits working I will use it to draw their attention off another pool that IS working. Meanwhile, your buddies are doing the same exact thing with you. It's a game to throw everyone off the trail.Pools that are fishing really good need to be fished in a hit and run manner. You don't want to be seen by the bro's in a run too often or it may raise their suspicion that you know something they don't. Trying to keep up with and read between the lines when talking to the boys at night is fun. Sometimes and actually fairly often, truly honest information changes hands. Other times it's complete bull. You become skilled at reading the eyes and facial expressions,looking for that tell, just like poker. We play a lot of poker too so the card game gets taken to the river every day.
In the depths of winter sitting around the wood stove, months after the summer season is over we start to let slip where we were actually catching fish. Things like " You know that run that filled in? I found out where they were in there, way down below where we normally fish and river left off that submerged rock". The rest of us will say, " You dirty dog! We knew you were getting them in there we just couldn't find them"
In reality there are few real fishing secrets between my small group of friends. But there are some, as there should and probably always will be. We all have special places that we go to get away from the crowds.There are still secret places on the river. Places where amazing fish have been caught that were never talked about.....to anyone. Fish that were caught in out of the way places, where no studded boot has stood before. Yes, there are still places like that on the river, many seek them out but few will ever find them.
Meanwhile,somewhere on the shores of the North Umpqua is a small band of brothers, endlessly chasing the now almost mythical fish, and playing The Game.
This has been out a little while but I love what Goran has to say about a lot of things in this video. A very well done piece for sure.
I have been fortunate over the last couple of years to meet some talented fly tiers. The beauty of their flies and the grace with which those flies fished has really grabbed hold of me. I was never into the real classic spey and salmon flies, just never thought about them much. Sure, I always thought they were pretty to look at and all,I just never got super jazzed about them. Then last year I fished with Ken and Johnathan and the flies they had really spun my head around.These classic flies are just so amazing! My ideas have changed on what the classics were all about. It's more than a fly or art , it's a feeling, even a lifestyle.I finally got the big idea.Holding some of these classic flies in my hand for the first time was an eye opener for sure. The detail and work involved really is awe inspiring.Fish like them too as Johnathan proved last winter with a nice buck.
You don't always have to throw a 6 inch Intruder in the winter people.
This year I met and fished with another great tier named Scott. He confided that he has only been tying this style for a short time. Well, I can't wait to see what he comes up with in a few years cause the stuff he is putting out now is stellar.
He just sent me an early Christmas present and all I can say is WOW!
Here is a sample of some of the flies that he sent. A few of these are getting wet soon!
Thanks to Jonathan, Ken and Scott for showing me that there is true art in these flies, and that steelhead deserve the best!
Here's to bent rods and singing reels this winter!
The river was deserted.........
I was alone with my thoughts and the unmistakeable beauty that surrounded me. There is no other place on earth like this place. The colors of fall were all around and it was a visual circus for my eyes. Big leaf maple leaves the size of my truck steering wheel were falling all around me like over sized snowflakes on a winters day. It was quiet, eerily quiet. To have this entire river to myself was a treat to be sure. I lazily fished where I wanted. The only goal today was to enjoy this fall wonderland,fish a few runs and head on up the road. I was just passing through on my way home from a work road trip and had a limited window.
I went to high dollar spots and I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts. The first money spot I fished looked good. As I watched my fly disappear and start to probe a submerged ledge, it felt fishy. As the line tightened and started to swing out from under the ledge the line stopped. The new mantra that my buddy Tony has been using and beating into my head is "10ft or 10 seconds" Wait till the fish pulls 10 feet off the reel or let him chew on it for 10 seconds then slam the door. It's a good one to remember and it works.The first option was the one the fish decided to employ and 10 feet quickly melted into 75 as the fish tore out of there in a flash. I could see the fish rolling and tussling at 100 feet and there was no doubt this was a Nostril fish. BIG and BRIGHT and fighting like Frazier kicking Ali's butt in their first meeting. I stuck 3 fingers into the spool of my 4 inch Sharpe's Gordon to try and slow this big boy down. He used every inch of the ring and had me on the ropes a couple times. After he hung my line on a midstream boulder I thought I was done. The line pinned in a crack the fish rolling and tumbling and thrashing the surface. Then without any reason whatsoever he comes loose of the rock and swims back around to fight freely once again. More runs and more digits into the Gordon. A seesaw battle ensues. A classic big buck fight. I have a low rod angle and I start to tire the almost 3 ft long fish. The runs are getting shorter but there is still no way to stop him when he goes. Finally I get him in front of me and I can see his entire body just under the surface. This is one of the elusive Nostril fish, I can clearly see the enlarged nostrils and gator mouth of this impressive male. I can't swing him in to me and he fins in the current just out of reach giving me no quarter. I stare into his eyes and connect with him on a level that can't be explained. This wild creature has given me a memorable fight and I don't even care if I land him at this point. Almost on cue, the hook pulls free and he sinks back into the depths of the pool with a flick of his massive tail. "WOW!, that was cool"! I say to no one in particular. I stand stunned at what has just transpired. After hundreds of steelhead over the last 27 years, the fish that I just hooked was as nice as any I have ever encountered. Just an absolutely gorgeous,big and bright fish that did exactly what he was supposed to. It just never gets old.
The second fish was a gem as well and as is always the case in this game, a total surprise.A last pool first cast fish.I get just enough line out to actually turn a fly over and flop it out there. It swings about 15 feet and the line comes tight. Again the 10 foot rule is chosen by the fish and as she tries to leave the park I lift the rod firmly and set the hook in place. Another battle with a beauty of a hen in the 8 lb range. This fight is much quicker but no less spirited. I slow the old Gordon down again with a combination of fingers in the spool and line tensioned against the cork. I love the old reels and this one is definitely not for a beginner. The spring is worn and it has just enough tension to not over run but it is a real free willy kind of reel. I love it. Adds an element of danger if you know what I mean. The fish tires after a quick 2 or so minute battle and I slide her in for a quick picture, leaving this girl in the water. She splashes me with water as she swims strongly away. I feel blessed to have been able to encounter a couple fish on this fall day, each one a gift.
If you haven't visited with Lee Spencer at the Big Bend Pool on Steamboat Creek, you are really missing out on quite a view. During the summer, Lee might have up to 500 fish under his watchful eye. In years past, this pool was dynamited often for the steelhead; however, since Lee has devoted his time from May until the fall rains come it no longer occurs.
Lee's stay is financed by The North Umpqua Foundation and this is the time of year for their annual fundraising drive. Since what Lee does is important to all of us, please consider sending your tax deductible donation, no matter how large or small to:
1224 Walnut St. PMB 310
Roseburg, OR 97470
Or donate online on the Foundation's website: www.northumpqua.org