The Fly Shop
Egg Sucking Leech
Archie's Steelhead Fly Fishing Adventure on the Upper Kalum River I look up at a sky the color of tarnished and faded zinc.and I wonder again at our idiocy. Sweat streams down from my eyes, temporarily blinding me with microscopic daggers of pain that all somehow simultaneously stab at my pupils, much like an imagined stream of carbonic acid. My right hand lifts toward my brow and I strain to overcome the rictus in my fingers, managing somehow to free their frozen grip from the sling of my pole, and the river of sweat gets magically diverted to my finger tips. Tears brought on by the pain of learning to see again fog my vision, but shadows and light gradually coalesce into trees. I can see the edges of the river now, hidden between the branches and boughs.it is the only thing preventing me from turning back to the warmth of the truck. I look over at Tracey and laugh out loud. He is the 'kid' after all, at least as it pertains to comparing his age to mine and he is in much better shape.yet he too, is bent over at the waist and sucking air in gasps and gulps that threaten to draw in the snow at our feet . We are fools, but you already knew that.
The skipper and I wear our rods now as quivers. My Sage is snuggled safely inside her PVC cocoon and sits draped across my back in a crude, homemade contraption that makes walking with a fishing rod a breeze. Both hands are free to tug at branches and push off with our ski poles.we are 'fancy walking' across a carpet of white in matched pairs of borrowed snowshoes. We are wending our way along side a small feeder stream that melds into the Kalum in a likely riffle of tinted river, mixing with water from the creek, as clear as crystal. A full day of fishing stretches downstream from the confluence, and we know from the lack of other footprints or vehicles at the trailhead that we will have the river to ourselves. Conditions are far from ideal, with cold water lulling most of the Steelhead into a lethargy of soft takes and hugging the bottom. Still, the sun is shining, the air is blessedly devoid of wind and we are in with a chance.
The skipper is tossing a black GP and systematically covers the water below me. Each of his feathered casts drapes across the water in a repeating and ever changing pattern and I can tell from the frequency that his fly catches on the bottom that he is using a heavier tip than I. The Kalum is very low at this time of year. I look across at the opposite shore and realize that my eyes are even with the high water mark from days long past. Many if not most, local fly fishers stay with a floating line and longer leader at this time of year, but both of us have chosen sink tips as a hedge against a wind blowing up. I am using a fly of my own invention, called simply 'Archie's Leech'. I developed it specifically for the low waters of winter, but it is very effective year round and has duped dozens of fish, many of them on this river.
There is nothing finer than hooking a Steelhead behind your fishing partner. The absolute, best rush is to hook one when he or she has waded a little too far into the water and have a streak of panicked silver leap into air and splash right beside them. The skipper wasn't actually very far into the water at all, but the prettiest fish I ever landed in my life was laying quietly within eight feet of shore. The take was so soft, I thought at first I had brushed against a rock. The instant I lifted my rod tip, I knew different! The little doe burst into the air within two feet of the skipper's right leg and I laughed out loud when he jumped even higher than the fish. She took me well into my backing on a water gulping rush that ended only when she shot across the top of a set of bouldered rapids, some forty yards below us. When I saw her leap free of the water again, I thought the fish was quite dark, and envisioned a beaten up, colored male. When the little steelie resisted her way close enough to have a good look at her for the first time, and she obligingly made a slow turn broadside to the sun, my mouth nearly dropped open in shock. "Man! What a beauty!" There is nothing prettier than a brightly colored, rainbow hued Steelhead, all plump with energy and splashed in silver. No other fish looks quite like it. I could almost hear the skipper thinking "magazine cover".
I laughed at the look on the skipper's face.I thought he was going to cry. He snapped one picture of the fish just as she was leaping free of the water, my fly clamped viciously in her mouth and a second just as I was slipping the fly free. Neither of us was prepared for the violence of her turn, and we both looked on helplessly as she shot back between my legs to freedom. A jealous flatlander named Robert replied to my description of the event and my admitting that we had both wanted to take a couple more pictures of the beauty - "Pretty fish; I am happy she got away before you two mauled her some more. She has more important things to do." And he was right, of course. A couple of years back, a famous fishing personality from back East made the news here in Kitimat by going through the humiliating experience of being ticketed for abusing a fish. I don't know the exact story and I certainly can't claim to know what is true, but I understand he was accused of repeatedly letting the fish take out line time after time, just to get some underwater footage. If it is true, he should be ashamed of himself and I certainly wouldn't desire such ignominious fame.
I seldom even touch Steelhead I catch, beyond holding them by the wrist to prevent them from slapping themselves against rocks in the shallows. It takes only a second to pop the hook free. If you lay the fish on her side, she will generally stay still until she is righted again. If the fish needs reviving, it will be obvious. There is no need to move the fish back and forth. Just aim the head into some mild current, keep the fish submerged and usually in a few seconds, a twitch of remembered strength will signal that the fish is ready to move back to the safety of deeper water. As most of you know, the Kitimat River sports a hatchery, and because of this, the river is one of the only remaining bodies of water where one is permitted to kill a Steelhead. The fish must be marked, and the murderer must stop fishing (for anything) for the remainder of that day. Sadly, many times I have borne witness to some ridiculous displays, all because there are still many who view Steelhead as meat. More often than I care to remember, I have watched some idiot dragging a flopping, gasping for air Steelhead several feet up onto a rocky shore and then, looked on stunned, at the same moron kicking the incredibly stressed and possibly dying animal back into the water! The fish was not marked.it will be Kraft dinner for supper again, I sumise. A few of the times and despite I have no proof of my assertion, I suspect from the clues of the poacher's body language, it was only because I looked on that the wild fish was released. I have seen guys hold a Steelhead out of the water for longer than even Houdini could hold his breath. I have watched in horror as more than one angler held a fish high for the camera and then dropped it on the rocks when it wriggled free of his grasp. In each and every instance, I wished she were better trained.so I could sic my dog on them. Robert was right to chastise me.I too, am glad she got away.
Egg Sucking Leech We at steelheadheaven have been testing products on the market to give us that extra advantage to hooking into that steelhead that is not all that interested and turn him into raging bull. The fly attached is one that Archie has been making for some time now and has fine tuned it. He was so kind as to teach me the proper way to tie this fly and the recipe for success, which I am going to share with you today. It starts with a tail of rabbit fur(black or purple). Tied onto a size 1/0 Mustad Salmon Hook. The rib is a 5gr. copper wire. I then tie in a palmered hackle from an old cape of soft Chinese Black, after stripping the barbules away from one side (it makes the fly look more sparse when finished and helps the fly sink). Then comes the key to the fly. As Arch is set that I learn how to dub flys that is our next step. I use Lite-Brite Fire Fox and Dub the body to give it a flashy green. Then the palmered hackle and finally the rib. For the head I dub it with orange or red seal fur and finally use that magical tool of a whip finisher, that is a pain to use but when you get it mastered it is the stuff and your head is secure. Arch tells me that it took him years to develop this fly and a week to teach me. Looks like I owe him a cold one!
See you on the river,