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A good start for February

Published on Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Once I get in the habit of getting up early, especially in the steelhead season, I just cannot not sleep in so today was no different. Besides I like to be able to report the river conditions the best I can for those that may wish to make a trip to the Vedder. I understand many have to drive a fair distance before they can make their first cast so I believe it helps to some degree. Of course with the ongoing clay bank slides the conditions can color up in a hurry if more clay falls in.

I was in no hurry to get to the river so I got bit of a late start and took the time to put coffee in my Maple Leaf travel mug before I made the 5 minute trip to the river. Daylight had broken when I headed to the river and if there was any angler fishing the run where I was heading, I would go elsewhere. As I saw the run was vacant, I continued on. On the way, I saw two rods walking by it, heading to their hot spot I guess.

I put on some steelhead bait with the usual bit of pink wool, slipped off my back pack and put the coffee mug down too; I was planning to make this a leisurely trip as well as a short one.

I worked through the run once, twice, working the run carefully before stopping to finish off the now luke warm coffee. A run above had been vacant so I headed for a few casts there too but like the starting run no bites, so back downstream I went, starting at the head of the run once again.

I had about 10 or 12 anglers in view, all intend to coax a steelhead to grab their offerings, to give them the thrill of a lifetime, maybe with a 20 pound bit of chrome.

I still had the original piece of bait on looking a bit pale and worse for wear. As I neared the tail out I was just thinking, should put on a pro-cured cooked ghost shrimp when the Maple Leaf Drennan dipped; I striked but did not feel anything solid. Was it bottom? No, with the depth I was fishing it should not be, unless it was a cut-off branch from a beaver or snag that had drifted into the run overnight. One never knows for sure though. A couple of cast later the same scenario, I checked the bait, its looked like it was pulled down some. Next cast down went the MLD again, I solidly set the hook and the possible snag had now turned into a head shaking steelhead. Once this fish felt the resistance and restraining order of my Sage rod off it went. It felt strong and larger than the 4 others that have come to hands so far this year. Line peeled quickly and smoothly off the drum of the well worn and roe covered Grice and Young reel, which was bought by my dad in England in the 80’s.

It used the current to its advantage and headed to the other side of the run, maybe seeking for a snag overhanging the bank so it could wrap around it and snap the 8 pound test leader. I wonder at times how they know where these obstacles are. I kept it under control and in the run for maybe 5 minutes. I was getting it close to shore but another run took it below the tail out. I had no choice but to let it have its way by keeping the tension as tight as I dare as it easily swam through the ripples. I saw its whole body for the first time, definitely the biggest I have tangled with this season. My spine tingled.

I knew what laid below, a nice place to land the fish in, was the advantage now mine? Another angler who had been working this spot even before I reached the river pulled in his line. We chatted as I continued playing the fish, “missed two here so far, need a hand?”, he says. “No that’s OK.”, I said. The fish was co-operating at first by staying in this deeper bit of water but it was swimming back and forth for 3 or 4 minutes. I was gaining and bringing the steelhead in close enough to see it was a hatchery buck that I estimated to be close to 14lb. The fish now felt the gravel on its stomach, in the shallows of the one foot deep backwater area and took off again for a couple of times. I started to wonder, as it twisted and turned, if the bought barbless hook will hold and I thought back to the posts on the forum about this subject last night.

I knew the fish was tired and it once again tried to use the current to its advantage but I maybe applying  more pressure than I should but a possible disaster laid below. A cut bank of sorts that could make a smooth landing difficult. I was testing the strength of the leader I know. My urging successfully brought the fish up to the backwater area once again and I now easily slid the tired buck ashore. On the gradual slope, I reached down to grab the wrist of the fish’s tail, the steelhead now left the confines of the water.

With the license marked, I was off to get an official weight at Fred’s Custome Tackle and it came in a bit over 13lb. I think it was 13.17 when converted from the metric scales to imperial measurement.

This ended an eventful week of steelhead fishing on the Vedder River with another week, another journal lays ahead, what it holds, who knows.

I do know how lucky we are to have such a great steelhead producing river practically at our doorsteps. Enjoy all what it all has to offer, to those that like to pursue this mighty seagoing rainbow trout.

A slow finish to a successful week

Published on Friday, January 30th, 2009

 

After going without a bite yesterday and putting in the most time on the river for one day this season, I thought I should be able to change that today.

A bit of frost greeted me and the other early anglers who were on the river at first light, which was coming a little earlier, by 3 minutes each couple of days. Hopefully winter is slowly slipping away, lets hope so as we have seen enough snow this year.

I settled in with another angler who I know at the scene of some other action this week, we were pleased to see the water in good shape once again today. We felt there would be a fish waiting for us as the run looked so promising once again. I was hoping that it would be a wild fish for the tube.

The other angler had the first chance but on the strike he came up empty. A few minutes later it was my turn as the Maple Leaf Drennan dipped. On the strike, I made contact but for the 4th time out of the last 6 hookups, the fish was only on for a head shake and a splash before it was gone.

We worked the run and were joined by other anglers in this and the surrounding spots but I saw nothing on for the two hours when I stayed in the area. There were a dozen or so anglers most of the time.

I decided that it was time to do some exploring and checked out some new areas but that would be after a visit to Tims for some refreshment and a snack. I also checked in with The Master and he had released a hatchery and heard of one wild landed but not tubed as no one was around to do that honour.

After a leisurly break, I was back at the river a bit before noon and I ended up walking over a mile of river. I found some nice spots but the only opportunity I had was when not looking at my float. Instead I was watching my footing while walking down river in the middle of the drift and I felt a good tug, but the float was above water when I looked up. I did not even see it going down. It would not give me a second chance.

I fished for another 30 minutes down river and then returned back to the mentioned spot again and to see if the fish had forgotton about the feel of the hook but it would not or had moved up river. It was near the end of tubing time, three o’clock and the rain started falling. I was tired too and I had another mile to walk back to the Leaf Mobil.

My day started with an opportunity and ended with another chance when for the only time during the whole trip I was not watching my float.

It shows once again in sports angling things can happen when you least expect it.

Triple darns but one more for the hatchery

Published on Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Fueled by the excitement of yesterday fishing trip, it did not take much urging to get back out there again today.

I wanted to get to the river right at daylight but when I got in the Leaf Mobile I saw the gas gauge needle at empty, darn forgot to fuel it up yesterday. This meant a detour for some petrol that made me 10 minutes late arriving at the river. Roll Eyes Was this a sign of what lay ahead for this forgetful angler.

As the”hot spot” came into view when I clambered down the river’s bank with daylight now 10 minutes old, horrors of all horrors, there was someone in my run. Shocked  Grin I could not believe my eyes. Huh Grin

Anyway that’s OK, I got my tube, if the angler hooked one that I felt he would, the tube would be ready. Actually I was so cocky that I had 2 tubes today, just waiting to have a wild steelhead put in them.

I decided to work a secondary run and leave the run to the lucky one but I kept an eagle eye on him to see if his pole would indeed bend.

I was just getting started at the head of the run when all of a sudden the angler in the “hot spot” was on the move. Huh I was excited to move down to the now vacant run but with no one in sight I might as well finish fishing the run I was at before I moved to it. After about 5 minutes I could wait no longer, I was on the move.

I trembled with excitement as I made my first cast thinking, “Are they here again today?”

I did not have long to have my question answered as near the tailout the Maple Leaf Drennan dipped, I was ready, I striked, there he was, one head shake, two head shakes, darn gone! My first loss of the year after landing the other three I have hooked to start the season. Little did I know things were going to get worse.

About 50 feet above the initial hookup the float dipped again, I striked nothing there, was it bottom as the run is fairly shallow, no I estimated that I was at least a foot above bottom. The next cast same spot down again, I striked, one head shake a bit of a boil then slack, double darn. What was going on? I check my hook, it was sharp.

Nothing more for a while so I moved up to the top of the run. On the first cast down went the MLD, the strike saw the Drennan flying out of the water onto the rocks. Luckily it did not shatter. On went another bait, I am ready now, as the MLD drifted into the zone down it went again, the hook set yielded a solid feeling, as before a single head shake, a boil, then the sickening feeling of slack line, triple damn.

What was going on here? A long time since this has happened to me, what a beak I thought to myself. Maybe the two tubes were the problem, way too confident in myself. Another 10 minutes of nothing so I moved down a tad to another run with a nice spill over. I put on an egg sac for a change of pace. On the second cast and for the 5th time of the morning the MLD is swimming below the surface, once again I striked only to come up empty, the egg sac was torn up some but good enough for another drift. Same spot down again, head shake once again but this time the steelhead is taking line, hooked. Grin Grin

It put up a good fight certainly better than the one yesterday, I was hoping for a wild of course. It took around 5 minutes before I saw the pleasant shape of an adipose, a steelhead on the upside or downside of 9 pounds, a very chrome doe.
It took another couple of minutes of back and forth action before I had her on her side and she easily slided into the holding tube. Well it was about time after so may chances. I phoned the hatchery to arrange the pickup.

I also checked in with “The Master” and told him of my good and bad luck, he had been blanked so far. “The fish that were in the location I am at must have moved into your area” he added.

I had tied the tubed fish up to part of a limb, I checked it a couple of times to make sure she is resting comfortably. Shortly after it was like bees being attracted to honey as anglers start to appear from all sides of me. Huh Two had moved into the run where I had all the action. I stayed near the tube. It did not take long until one of the anglers was into one. The angler was packing a tube too so I moved up to watch the action and helped tubing it if it was another wild, its a good sized buck, near 14. As it neared the shore we saw there was no adipose and one less steelhead in the river.

It was not long until George and Ron arrived for the pickup, they told me that they picked up another on the way down. It appeared after a slow start the wilds are now being caught.

As they were getting ready to leave they got word that another wild was in a tube a few hundred yards above us, a worth while trip for them this morning.

Shortly after they left the cell phone rang. It was The Master, I guess all the fish had not left his area as he told me that he had landed a good sized hatchery buck but he was not sure of the weight. I know it must be a good one as he would not have kept one that early in the day.

I joined up with Lew who had just come out, we tried some other runs but come up empty.

I decided to leave Lew at it while I went for lunch. Just as I left, Nick called again and said his fish was bigger than he thought, 18.91 pounds, which was good for first place in the Wally Hall Junior Memorial Derby. I look forward to see the photo of that monster.

After lunch I returned to the river and tried for another hour but I had run out of chances and headed for home with memories of 3 fish lost but pleased with another for the hatchery which was the most important thing.

Besides those lost maybe there will be more tomorrow for you or me, time will tell.

Tubing steelhead on the Vedder

Published on Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Today I woke up to a bit of snow on the ground and more falling from the darkened sky, it is always amazing to me how snow changes the look of our world. It almost gives it a fresh, new and clean look. I know it makes the commute for many a headache, especially when it comes to the morning rush hour. To me, as I get ready for a morning of fishing I think of readers of this website who are caught up in the traffic jam and hope they are all driving safely.

I feel guilty that I live so close to the Chilliwack River and can almost fish every day. I wish however that day will come for many and I hope there will still be fish for them. That is why my mission today was to get to the river at first light in the hope of getting one in the tube for the Chilliwack River steelhead hatchery program. Because of this highly successful program and the dedicated hatchery staff, we on the Chilliwack Vedder River have a good run of steelhead for many British Columbia anglers and others from throughout the world to fish for. Some people condemn hatcheries but in this changing world if it was not for them I believe we would not have the angling opportunities on the Chilliwack Vedder River. What is better, no hatcheries, no fish or hatcheries with a strong run that we have most years on this system and the opportunity to fish for them? Personally I choose that latter.

I was running a bit late this morning so I did not stop at Tims and instead enjoyed a cup of home brew as the Leaf Mobile carefully delivered me through the snow covered roads to the starting spot for the day. As I arrived, two anglers were already hard at it. I pulled into an area where I could watch them and sipped on the last of my coffee and chewed on a bit of toast that I had wrapped in some tin foil to keep it warm, I hate cold toast. I also hate the cold temperatures that I know will freeze my guides and my hands today but the snow falling silently around me indicated that it was indeed steelhead weather. I had a further excuse to stay in the warm confines of the Leaf Mobile as an angler stopped by for a chat and told me about the 21 pound plus hatchery steelhead that he caught on the first of January, what a way to start 2009. He showed me a picture of it too. Grin

While he headed up river, I listened to the radio traffic reporters and heard all about the traffic accidents everywhere in the Lower Mainland and out to the Valley, why don’t people drive to the conditions?

I finally got brave, geared up and headed to the flow picking my way carefully down the snow covered rocks. I was just getting ready to make my first cast and I heard a whistle from one of the two anglers working in front of me, I saw his pole arched nicely.

“Let me know if it is a wild”, I said. I put my rod and back pack down in case I needed to sprint to the fish, I was hoping at the same time that it was a wild as I had not been able to tube one since the 2009 program started on January 15.  I then heard what I wanted to hear,“wild”, off I went.

I met up with another forum member; sorry I couldn’tt match his face to his handle. Embarrassed He offered to help tubing it which I was very grateful as the place where we would have to slip it in the holding tube was not too friendly. We quickly made our way down to Chris, the fortunate angler. I slipped the tube off my shoulder and we zipped it open, we had some trouble getting it into its temporary home but after a few tries and 4 very cold hands we had it safely in. Chris slipped the hook out, we close the 7- 8 pound buck in, good one for the program as most years bucks are harder to get than the does. The 3 of us felt good as we had all done our part in getting a fish that will ensure more steelhead for you all to enjoy in a few years, be you strictly catch and release or like to take one home. That choice is freely yours, which is the good part of fishing.

We moved the fish from where we tubed it and I moved it a bit off the main part of the river, making sure there was a bit of a current and the fish’s head was facing into the current. I found a convenient snag which I could tie the tube and its occupant to. Once tubed we were also very concerned for the well being of this precious steelhead.

I phoned the hatchery and gave them the location to Bob, the hatchery manager who answered my call. Bob told me that they would be down as quickly as they could, it is the first tubed fish of the day.

While I waited for the hatchery staff I did a bit of fishing but I had no success over the next 45 minutes. Fishers came and went, there were more on the river than I thought there would be for a snowy day. I checked the fish a couple of times that it was doing OK, it was fine. The Hatchery staff, Ron and Kelly appeared on the dyke and in no time they had transferred the steelhead from my tube into the blue carrying case. A short trip was quickly made to their truck and the steelhead is deposited in the oxygen-fed tank and was on its way to the Chilliwack River Hatchery. Before they left I told them I hoped that I could call them again today. Grin

I sat in the Leaf Mobile for a while watching different anglers working the run, to see if anyone else connected but they did not so I decided to go to my “hot spot”, where I have taken two hatchery fish over the last 2 weeks.

I was warmed up some now after the drive to the new location and I was back on the river at 10:20am, very few anglers at this spot. Grin I saw no tracks in the snow on the side stream where I have been fishing but I wondered if the entrance far down river is now too low with the dropping river.

I lost confidence in the side stream and headed over to the main river. As I reached it, I saw Gwyn a few hundred yards below me. I fished a likely looking run but even though it looked fishy, I found no takers. I headed to another run and I saw Gwyn working to it too. He got there first. Grin Just as I reached it I saw Gwyn’s pole nicely bent. “That’s the third one and I just started at 10, should have been here a few minutes ago as I released a nice wild” he related as he played the fish. As he got it to the beach, it was a nice fresh hatchery doe that he decided to retain. As he filled in his license I wondered if there might be a fourth there, I was hoping.

I threw a few casts where we were standing and then moved to the top of the run. The Maple Leaf Drennan that I had put on last night along with some new main line was bouncing along happily in the ripple at the head of the run, it was about 2 to 3 feet deep. I could even see the Maple Leaf logo through the falling snow. Suddenly its journey downstream was interrupted, it was swimming below the surface but not for long as my strike brought it to the top for a brief second before the fish on the end had pulled it back under. “There’s another Gwyn!” I said happily. I saw that it was a good sized one, maybe close to 12. I prepared for a good fight but it did not happen as the fish surrendered quickly. I said to Gwyn “does it look like the one you released”, “no I do not think so”, he replied. “Maybe it is a moving fish”, I said as Gwyn easily slided the very docile doe into the tube and then tied the rope up to a large rock. Once again I was pleased that we have another for the hatchery.

Another phone call to the hatchery and Lynne said that they were on their way to pick up another fish and would get them to call me, which they did a few minutes later. They said that they had two to pick up now and would be getting to me in about 30 minutes or so. That gave me more time to fish as I waited once again. Even though I was confident of hitting another, I did not.

Kelly and Ron once again were the pick-up crew and the process from earlier in the morning was repeated. As I was cold, I followed them out to the truck. As they transferred the fish to the tank, a young family that were out for a walk stopped and had a look at the 3 steelhead swimming freely in the tank. The children and their mother asked a number of questions such as what we were doing. Of course we were pleased to answer their inquires. Maybe one day they will be doing what I was doing today.

As the truck pulled away with its precious cargo of three and I headed back to the Leaf Mobile, I felt good that I had done my small part today of making sure that there will be steelhead in the future for you and I to enjoy.

Tomorrow, actually it is now today is another day to be out on the river for another adventure of seeking out that steelhead, hoping I can be fortunate to encounter once again this magnificant game fish. Around 7 hours to spash down, I hope. Grin Grin

A steelhead of a thousand cast

Published on Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

After taking the day off yesterday, I thought that I should get an early start this morning with the improved water conditions. I awoke around 6:30am and noticed that we had a few degrees of frost here in the Valley so the warm blankets won out over getting to the river at first light.

It actually was close to noon before I reached the river. Upon my arrival, the river was looking mighty fine as did a lot of other people as most of the runs had an angler or two hard at it. In talking to a couple of them they said one hatchery had been taken in the area. Good, I had not missed much.

I decided to head up river a tad, to the scene of the action I had 11 days ago. Since then I had fished 5 days, put in 13 hours and seen only one fish taken but of course I heard of some others. We all had been challenged by less than desirable condition, in the Lower anyway. Even the prospects of better up river conditions did not beckon me to go there. I do not really know why but I always like the Lower, maybe because it is closer to home and to Tim Hortons. Grin

When I reached the river, the first thing I saw was one of the brood capture boys bringing a tubed fish up river. I crossed a small stream and gave them a hand. I packed their rods so they could carry the water filled tube closer for hatchery staff to pick up. They said that they had been into a couple of others or had missed them, I have forgotten what they actually said. I was glad that they had got one for the brood program as I believe we are a bit behind so far this season.

Needless to say that got my spirit up some and maybe by staying in bed early this morning was not such a bad idea after all. Grin The lovely spring-like weather along with the improved water visibility had brought out more anglers as they dotted a good number of the runs in the area.

I started by fishing a small side stream but I wondered if steelhead would come up it. The entrance to the side stream, further down river, looks OK. I then moved to the main river and fished one very nice looking run but it was quite big, so many places for a fish to be. I tried to cover it the best I could before I moved to where I got the fish 11 days ago but no one was home today. I quickly fished the big run again; one angler was fishing part way down so I left it to him.

I headed once again to the side stream and work the spot where I had started as it looked so fishy but the Maple Leaf DNE stayed dry. Two anglers were fishing another run of the side stream about 150 feet below me but they did not fish it too long before heading over to the main part of the flow.

I decided to work my way down to it. I crossed a little bit of quick water, watching I did not trip on a rock, nice to be able see bottom with the clearing water conditions. As I reached the other side, onto a bit of an island I noticed a little slick below a drop off. Experience told me even though it was small it was plenty big enough to hold Iron. Many new comers to steelhead fishing will walk right by a spot like this. I am sure I did when I first started out but seeing “The Master” pulling a fish out behind me in the past were lessons well learned.

Anyway on the first cast into this spot the Maple Leaf DNE acted a bit strangely. I was not sure if it was actually a take or not but I sort of just tightened up a bit, not actually striking properly. As I applied the tension the tell tale headshake of a steelhead followed by a silver flash convinced me that it was indeed a fish. Roll Eyes

It took off right away heading to a run below, where the others had been fishing and I hastily had to cross another side stream to reach dry land. I am hoping it was a wild for the tube.

The fish was not big but what the heck, it was a steelhead and after 5 skunked days I was pleased to have one of any size on. As usual the steelhead was strong, their size never seems to matter. They put up a good tussle and it gives one pleasure feeling it on the end of your line. I do not think a true fisherman ever gets tired of that feeling.

As it got closer to shore, it started to twist and turn, trying to get rid of that hook. I had picked a nice spot to bring it onto shore if it was a hatchery, or to tube it if the adipose fin was intact.

Unfortunately I saw some blood coming from its mouth so now I hoped that it was a hatchery. I have over the years seldom had a bleeding steelhead. I searched now for that fin; good there was not one so ashore it came, a hen close to 8 pounds.

The two fellows that were fishing the run where I landed it come racing over and the questions followed. Grin Grin

I marked the fish on my license and I was glad that I had two pens as one would not write. It had been in my pack too long I guess.

I headed for a snack to reward myself as once again my wife will be pleased to serve fresh fish. I am not sure how many casts it took between my 2 steelhead for 2009 but maybe it was getting close to a thousand.

The count starts tomorrow again but I do not think that I will bother counting them as it does not really matter in the whole scheme of things. Just getting out on the beautiful Chilliwack Vedder River is enough of a reward, to me anyway.

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