B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
From David Sandquist
Well, it was mid February and there was a definite warming trend developing into what many described as "spring-like conditions". I headed out that morning with an unusual level of optimism. As a fly fisherman, I had been waiting for the temperature of the water to rise enough to allow the fish to get active enough to chase a fly. This day it appeared that the weather, and my luck, might just be changing. While it had been warming over the previous few weeks, it had also not rained in a few days and the river was low and clear. I decided then to head up the river as I felt there would have been few fresh fish entering the lower river, and any fish down low would have worked there way up by then. I got up above the Allison Canyon and saw a nice run out of my car window. This was a small "micro-run" (only 50 meters from riffle to tail), perfect for working a fly. What really sold me on it was that there was no car parked along the road next to it, despite the fact that I had got off to a later start then I had planned, so over I pulled. I remember thinking, as I worked into my waders, that this was good morning already. I had a nice stretch of water to myself, I did not need my gloves for a change, and it was not raining. Conditions could not have been more optimal. I grabbed my rod and headed through the trees towards the river.

I got to the head of the run and stood scanning the river. The main flow of the riffle entered the run on the far side, pressing the slot against the canyon wall. Between the slot and me was a large expanse of slower moving shallow water. I began there, looking down the seam and imagining that if there were fish here, it would be right there in the seam where I could see some larger boulders that might provide some good pockets. The water in the seam was only a few feet deep, so I decided the best way to tackle this run was with the floating line. I changed the spool on my reel and strung the line through the rod. I threaded a strike indicator on first and then opened the fly box. I pondered a single egg, still remembering the steelhead I caught the year before on New Years Day. However, I also recalled a recent report I had read by fellow angler Wisper, who said he hooked a nice fish a week earlier on purple wool with a piece of prawn. While I did not have a bag of shrimp with me, I did have a selection of purple egg sucking leeches, so I selected one with orange egg. I tied the fly on the end of my 9 foot length of 8 pound Maxima. The fly was not weighted so I pinched on a small 1/8" split-shot about 18" above the fly and set the indicator to 3 feet above that by squeezing on a little ball of "indicator putty" as a stopper. This should put the fly within a foot of the bottom.
As I pulled the line off my reel, preparing to cast, I planned the drift. I usually begin fishing a run with a short cast in close, and then gradually work my way out. Something about this run made me eager to get out to that prime holding water. I made a couple of short false casts, more to get a feel for the added weight on the line then to get more line out, then I hauled off a long cast into the riffle above the run. I mended hard to get the line above the indicator and started the drift. The current carried the fly into the slot I lifted the rod to keep the rest of the line off the slower water to make sure the line stayed drifting and did not pull the fly off the bottom. I was already worried that the current in the slot was too fast and that the fly might not be sinking fast enough. I lifted the slack line to allowed it to be pulled out easily and watch the indicator like a hawk. The line reached the end of the run and began its swing through the tail out. I allowed the fly to hang there for a minute and began stripping in the line. Not a sniff.

The next cast I made was a bit shorter, and after the mend I guided the fly into the seam. This was the sweet spot. I began to pick up the slack and raise the rod when my indicator disappeared. I dropped the slack line at reached up to grasp it at the first eyelet while I lowered the rod to give the fish a chance to suck it in before the drifting line pulled it out. I raised the rod again and set the hook. A flash of silver greeted me right where I had earlier pictured the fish holding. The ensuing fight was not as spectacular as others I have had, as I suspect that the fish was still feeling the lethargy of the colder winter months, but it was still the best (only) I had had that season. After about ten minutes I was able ease the 7 pound wild buck into the shallows for a quick picture and gentle release. That turned out to be my only steelhead landed of 2010, and I am now in search of my first of 2011.

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