Thursday, February 23, 2017

Steel Sunrise

The sun to the southwest hadn't yet cleared the horizon down in the river valley. But the trees hanging over the 50 foot bluff across the river were painted yellow by the day's first light. The blue sky brightened. And paired up geese honked angrily at a third party trying to interrupt their fun. Eventually the third goose flew off, quieting the pair. The only sounds were caused by water from a small feeder creek cascading down the cliff and water from the river rushing down the rapids at the end of the 20 yard pool that I was ready to step into.

Dawn is the best time to fish. It's also the best way to get a day off to a good start. Solitude is what I seek. And it's available at dawn. On this morning, no other fish cars were pulled off to the side of the road near where I parked and no anglers could be seen up or downstream. The fish had a relatively warm night to move upstream. Based on experience, I expected a few fish to have chosen to take a break from their upstream journey in the pool.

The water carried a green tint as it flowed past me at about 200 cubic feet per second -- according to the USGS gauge. The water was warming up a bit, but still well under 40 degrees, so the fish would be holding in the softer water. I tied on a black and purple marabou tube fly with a little flash and a chartreuse collar. Black and purple are often effective in cold water carrying some color. The leader was looped to a Rio Mow Tip, five feet of floating line and five feet of T-11 sink tip to get the fly down to the bottom in the slower water.

I stood at the head of the pool and slowly stripped out line and swung the fly through the top of the
head of the pool. After pulling the entire head shooting head off the reel, I took one step downstream, cast and watched the line swing deeper into the pool. One more step, one more cast. The fly's swing came to a sudden stop and the tip of the 12.5 St. Croix two-handed rod started to bounce and line  spun off the reel. I set the hook and watched a second-year steelhead thrash the surface of the pool. The fish fought hard, but the leverage of the long rod and a long-handled net allowed me to end the fight quickly. I snapped a picture of her in the net, hoping to capture the morning glow reflecting off the water. No such luck.

Three more steelhead grabbed the fly within the hour, the last one a silver female pushing 10 pounds. The sun shined through the trees as I walked back to my car with a silly grin on my face. Several anglers were rigging up in one of the parking lots as I drove back through the MetroParks. I'm sure they caught their fair share of fish. It was going to be beautiful day on the river. But dawn is the best time to fish.

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