Monday, January 16, 2012

Seven Below Steelies

Chris Stiles and I were not in a hurry to get to the Salmon River on Sunday. Besides, it was only going to be a high of 10 degrees! We arrived in Altmar around 1:30pm and quickly geared up. There weren't too many guys braving the cold and we easily found our own water in the upper part of the lower fly zone. I found some nice slower moving water behind a fallen tree and drifted my globug along a soft seam. After a few minutes I watched as my strike indicator shot below the surface. I set the hook and my reel screamed as the fish shot downstream. The fish kept going and I was in a bad place, up high on a bank above some swift current (not in the water). The fish came to the surface and rolled. It was a decent dark colored steelie. That was the last time I saw the fish as it threw the hook. Despite the loss, I was stoked! I had already hooked up with a steelie in the first ten minutes!

Stiles hooked up twice in the next hour but lost both of his fish. I missed a few takes and then we began to run out of daylight. We headed back to the truck, ohhhh for 3! We were glad to get back to the truck because it was only seven degrees. And yes, our guides iced up pretty often. To say that it was cold today would be a huge understatement. Chris said he didn't even get feeling back into his feet until a few hours after we were done fishing. I was pretty dysfunctional myself and I even had trouble untying my boots because my fingers just wouldn't work. Here's a few (of the few) pictures that I took while freezing my ass off.

Approximately 30 seconds after getting out of the water.....Instant Freeze

We stayed the night at a place owned by Chris's friend Patrick, who generously let us stay there while he was away. We spent a while tying up some more glo bugs and then got to bed early. My friend Jon Swartwout called and let me know that he'd be making the drive to fish with us in the morning. The weather for Monday was supposed to be a lot warmer, so our hopes were high that the fish would be more active.

Fresh eggs from the vice.

We woke at 5:30 am and packed up all our stuff. I really thought it was going to be warm-er in the morning, but the wall of cold air that hit me when I stepped out the door told me that I was sorely mistaken. We grabbed some fishing food at the golden arches and then headed to the river. We waited a little while for Jon to get there. Again, we weren't in a rush because first off, nobody was even there yet and second, it was COLD. Really cold.

It didn't take long for Jon to arrive and then we headed upstream into the lower fly zone again. Before we started walking upstream, Jon told us that it was negative seven degrees. Yes that's right..... -7 degrees. SEVEN BELOW ZERO!

It was an extremely slow and miserable first couple of hours. My goal for the day (besides catching a steelie), was to get some good video footage with my GoPro. I'm gonna be completely honest... It was too cold to take videos. Way too cold. Even trying to tie different flies on was like torture.

I ended up breaking a fish off after a few hours of fishing the same run. There was definitely fish there, it was just a matter of finding the right fly. I only witnessed two other fish being caught while we were in the lower fly zone. It was safe to say that today was much slower than yesterday. I did see some remaining kings and cohos swimming around including one that actually looked pretty fresh. Surprising to see these guys still swimming in January.

A spawned out Coho

We headed back to the trucks to warm our feet up and then drove downriver to fish a different section.

We fished for maybe an hour and a half and then called it a day. The temperature when we finished was about 14 degrees with a windchill of five degrees. Its pretty tough to keep your effort level up when it's that cold. The fishing today was really slow, but that's steelheading. I didn't land my first steelhead so now I know my first one will be a western steelie.

It was a good last trip in that I broke my record for coldest temperature that I've fished in. I'm glad that I got to fish with Jon and catch up with him. Thank you Patrick for the hospitality and of course, thank you Chris for a great last trip and for being a great friend.

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