Twas a good day

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by GAT, May 4, 2013.

  1. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,161
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,682 / 0
    I figured what the heck... we did well at Olalla Lake last Saturday and the power bait guys couldn't have caught all the planters in a week. My hero shot models had other things to do so I headed off on a solo trip.

    It started out about the same as last Saturday. The weather was perfect but the hot fly for the planters was the black and olive variegated WB with a gold bead head. I did try some other patterns and one is a variation: olive tail and hackle with a black body (see below). Most of the planters were the typical size but I did catch a 17-incher as shown. However, the highlight was something I wasn't expecting.

    Remember I've told you that the ODF&W dump surplus adult hatchery steelhead in the coastal lakes?

    Well.... so here I am, fishing a two fly rig as I do most of the time for stillwaters and the bottom fly was a size 14 olive and black soft hackle that also worked last week. Something slams one of my flies and I figure it must be another 17-inch guy. However, I was making no progress with my four weight in reeling in the fish. In fact, it started stripping off line faster than I could keep up and made a huge jump... that's when I realized it was a steelhead.

    Boy howdy... I was under-gunned. Normally, if I figure I'm going to do battle with one of the steelhead in the lakes, I at least use a five weight. Fortunately, I have learned to use nothing smaller than 7 lb test f-carbon for my tippet material... and I needed it.

    The fight was on. I had to tucker out the steelhead if I had any chance of landing it -- which was going to be a problem because my net was far too small and it's a large size trout net-- so I made it fight the rod and the drag. I thought for sure I was going to lose the fish but after a goodly amount of time I got it close enough to use my net as a pancake turner and flip the steelhead in my boat.

    Here's the interesting bit. The steelhead did not take the larger WB but instead ate the size 14 soft hackle! I did the best I could to take photos but it is no easy feat to take photo of a steelhead on your pontoon boat apron. ...I really needed one of my hero shot guys to model the fish.

    This was the day in a nutshell:

    P1010165.jpg

    This is the fly the larger trout liked:

    IMG_0990.jpg

    This is the fly the steelhead ate:

    IMG_0988.jpg

    Truth, stranger than fiction.

    Soooo...... I have a hatchery steelhead. Normally, when I do catch steelhead at the lake I'm kind'a prepared and have some manner to keep the fish cool so I can give it to someone after driving home.

    I really don't have a place to put the thing in the boat. I figured I could use my net lanyard as a stringer and did so. Hmmmmm.... I really want to keep catching trout and it is supposed to get up into the 80s on the coast which does not bode well for keeping a steelhead cool.

    The thing is in the way. Two guys happen by with a large cooler in their boat. I asked them if they ate steelhead. At first they couldn't figure out what I was asking. Then I explained my situation and told them they could have the steelhead if they wanted... afterall, they had a large cooler. Of course they took the steelhead and said it went well with the 16-inch planter they had already placed in the cooler.

    With the steelhead off my hands, I went back to catching trout. This went on for many hours before the wind kicked up and one of my legs started to cramp. I figured I'd already had a good day so I may as well head for home.

    Yup, it was indeed a good day. (I'll never know why that steelhead took the soft hackle... maybe I've been using far too large of flies to fish for steelhead :))
  2. David Prutsman All men are equal before fish

    Posts: 322
    Woodland Park, Colorado
    Ratings: +25 / 0
    That is very odd he took a soft hackle with more than 13 hackles!
    Chad Lewis likes this.
  3. Dipnet aka Tim Hartman

    Posts: 915
    Silverdale, WA
    Ratings: +375 / 0
    Sweeet!

    And good on ya for payin' the fish forward! :)
  4. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,161
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,682 / 0
    h ah ahh hahahhahahahh ahha.... No kidding!!! What was that steelhead thinking! :D

    Oh, the stats:

    I was using a full fast sinking line (type V) with two patterns... the water is very clear at the lake so the leader/tippet length to the last fly was about 18 feet. I don't count fish after 5 so I don't know how many planters I caught... most were within 8-14 inches with one at 17-inches. The steelhead is considered a trout in the lake but I didn't measure the length. Oh, and I did also catch a perch with the olive and black soft hackle -- with the improper number of hackle fibers :D

    I met another fly angler in a pontoon boat and he wasn't doing all that well so I gave him one of the variegated olive and black WBs. I told him to memorize the pattern because it is the hot fly for lakes this year... at least the coastal lakes.

    I noticed that the spin guys were trolling with 4 feet of flashers above whatever they were using as bait.
    I don't get it. I'm catching plenty of fish without all that metal attached to my leader. Most of the time I couldn't tell if they had a fish on when they reeled in because the weight of the flashers put a heck of a bend in their rods.
    David Prutsman likes this.
  5. Jim Ficklin Genuine Montana Fossil

    Posts: 2,397
    Columbia Basin
    Ratings: +684 / 0
    Sounds like a fine day! I spent the day on chores (labor of love tho . . . most of the time was spent tinkering with my little Jeep. I did manage to catch one paper wasp . . . took it on an old bald guy's neck . . . wild wasp, but I bonked it anyway.
  6. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,356
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +688 / 1
    Great tale Gene. The part I don't get is the surplus hatchery Steelhead. What's the rational behind putting them in the lakes? Don't get me wrong, it can see that it gives folks a great shot at a trophy size fish, but why don't they go into a river?
  7. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,161
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,682 / 0
    Patrick, evidently the ODF&W get tired of trucking the steelhead back downstream. This late in the year, not many steelheaders are on the rivers so the hatchery jobs simply swim back up stream.

    I've heard that the steelhead in Olalla come from the traps on the Siletz to keep the hatchery steelies from going upstream with the wild steelies. Just one more screw up when it comes to dumping hatchery steelhead in with wild steelhead.

    There's a number of coastal lakes where they dump the adult hatchery steelhead but they never mention that they have done so at Olalla. Guess they like the surprise factor when some guy is using Power Bait to catch a 8-inch planter and hooks into a steelhead.

    Those of us who have fished the lake for decades are wise to their ways. It's this time of year you can catch a fairly bright steelhead. After they're in the lake for a month or more and find they can't spawn, they start to rot away and die. There are inlet streams to the lake the steelhead try to swim up but the tribs are too small.

    Here's the catch. They are considered a trout once they are dumped in the lack so you don't need to tag them as a steelhead. However, there are steelhead rivers near the lakes. So, if you're on your way home with your steelhead and for some reason are stopped by the police and they notice the steelhead, how do you convince them that you didn't catch it from one of the rivers and didn't tag it... or... you don't even have a steelhead tag.

    I asked the ODF&W about this scenario and they told me I'd have to convince the officer I caught it from one of the lakes and not a river.

    Oh well, I figure I paid for the damned hatchery steelhead, I may as well enjoy catching them in lakes.

    Ironically, I catch just as many steelhead in lakes as I do the rivers... where I'm fishing for them.

    At one time I did actively seek out the steelhead in the lake but would use my fish/depth finder to locate the fish... they show up kind'a large on the screen. I'd also use a 6 weight and not a 4 weight.

    We've found that they do hang out in a specific part of the lake where the trout also tend to gather. So, it isn't the first time I've caught a steelhead while fishing for trout. However, the steelhead will normally take a size 4, brown bead-head leech pattern and not a size 14 soft hackle.
    Patrick Gould likes this.
  8. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,356
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +688 / 1
    Thanks Gene, I get it now.
  9. wadin' boot Donny, you're out of your element...

    Posts: 2,035
    Wallingford, WA
    Ratings: +1,604 / 0
    Gene I wish they'd throw a steelhead now and then in some of the lakes here. That looks like some fun.

    Saw a guy in a raft on pine lake trolling a similar outfit, looked like he had about seven pounds of an underwater rube goldberg machine attached to his line above a tiny mepps spinner. He and his girl had a stringer of 12 inch trout, so my theory is all the flashing and clicking helps stimulate a convulsive seizure in a 12 inch trout brain, whereupon at conclusion of the seizure the trout float to the surface. Alternatively it is carefully calibrated with various galvanic metals to generate a highly focused electrical field that is enough to stun the 12 inch trout brain and ...well you get the picture.

    The logistics and practice of trolling a myriad of flashers behind a conventional fred Meyer style raft in steady rain with your girlfriend handling one of the two horrible oars are exhausting just to think about.
  10. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,761
    Dillon, Mt
    Ratings: +1,709 / 0
    Steelhead will eat just about any bug. I've had hit's where they would make your hook straight. I had one straighten out a size 14 Red Ant. Caught one on a size 16 Black Humpy.
  11. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,161
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,682 / 0
    h ahhahah ahhahahhahahhh hahha I honestly don't know how they can detect a hit. The flashers weigh more than the majority of the planters. The lake is clear so it isn't as if the trout can't find the bait. The clarity is why we use such long leaders. If anything, I can see the Ford Fenders scaring the hell out of the fish more than attracting them.

    When we first started flyfishing the lake, there really wasn't that many of us "fly guys" (as they call us). Nowadays, there's just usually a goodly number of guys in pontoon boats flyfishing so we've become a common sight.

    80 percent of those who fish the lake are "locals". It is actually a reservoir for the water supply of Toledo, Oregon and changed considerably over the years. The dam is one of the earth type jobs with a gentle slant so the lawn chair Power Bait folks have a nice place to sit on shore. Sometimes, the beach area gets kind'a noisy with the dogs barking, kids crying and guys yelling when they hook a fish. In a not so kind moment, one of us named the dam "white trash beach"... WTB.

    We still refer to it as WTB but that is no longer the case. The land around the reservoir is owned by a timber company and it is gated so they lock the gate at night.

    Originally, the boat launch looked like a homemade dirt affair and you had to dry up a road from hell to reach the put-in.

    A number of years ago, someone paid to install a nice, paved boat launch, seeded the beach with grass, added picnic tables and porta-potties and created a park. It's actually a nice beach area these days and no longer as rough as it once was... but we still call it WTB for reference.

    Because it is a water supply, no gas motors are allowed on the lake. Now that the lake isn't so rough, there are folks using canoes, kayaks and those crazy stand up surfboard affairs. Sometimes it can get kind'a crowded near the dam but everyone is friendly and eventually spread out. I don't mind the other folks. Normally, our gang is catching more trout with our flies than anyone else on the lake so it isn't as if we have a lot of competition for the trout. As the limit is five trout per person, the spin guys catch their limit and leave. This means the crowd can suddenly disperse and we're the only guys on the lake.

    The spin folks have always been very friendly and I always ask how they are doing when they troll by with their insane flasher systems. Sometimes they ask what I'm using and I'll tell them... they have no idea what I'm talking about but I'll show them the fly just the same. If it is a fly angler and they are not doing all that great, I'll give them one of the flies that is working.

    The lake is deceiving when it comes to the size. When standing on the dam, it doesn't look all that large but it has a number of fingers and once you get around the first bend, you can fish a long distance from WTB. We've found there is no need to fin to the other end of the lake because the planters and steelhead don't travel far from the boat launch.... which is a good thing.

    When I first started fishing the lake I did fin to the other end but found when the wind comes up and is blowing against you, it takes forever to get back to the launch.

    I've mapped the bottom of the lake with my fish/depth finder and know the location of the subsurface ridges and drop-offs were the trout hang out. One of the locations is shown in the photo above.

    As it is a coastal lake, the weather can suddenly change... especially the wind. When the wind comes up and is blowing like a banshee, you may as well get off the lake because it won't stop until the sun goes down.

    Once the price of gas went up, we fish the coastal lakes much more often than the Cascade lakes. Which means we're limited to planters but what the hell, we paid for them... and there is always a chance of a steelhead. Landing a steelhead from a pontoon boat is always a challenge. Some of the steelies I've hooked were so large I had to fin to shore to land the thing. You don't get much leverage to use against a steelhead when it is pulling you around the lake.

    There's a theory that the longer a steelhead stays in the freshwater, the more likely it will regain the instinct to eat bugs as it did as a smolt. I suppose this is the reason the steelhead will eat trout flies when the fish are dumped into the lake. Steelhead are known to take a MB dry fly on The McKenzie river but I've never had a steelie take a small pattern in the lake.

    I've tried steelhead patterns in the lake to target the big anadromous fish but they have never worked. Like I said, normally the steelhead prefer WB and leech patterns so it was still a surprise when the female took the soft hackle yesterday.

    The pattern has worked so well catching trout (and steelhead), I guess I need to come up with a name for the thing. I got the idea for the pattern from the Fly Tying Forum and only started using it as an experimental pattern.
  12. Jim Wallace Smells like low tide

    Posts: 5,663
    Somewhere on the Coast
    Ratings: +544 / 0
    Thanks for the report and discussion, Gene.

    I once caught a 10# hatchery steelhead that was put in a local lake. It looked like a big Rainbow, and had a clipped adipose fin, so I figured it was a hatchery steelhead.
    Fortunately, I was using my 6 wt. I had only 4X tippet, but I hooked it trolling in open water, in my canoe, so I could play it out without worrying about it snagging me off. I had a big cooler with ice in my rig, and when I noticed the clipped fin, I harvested the beast. I was able to fit the head into my trout net, and then gripped the tail with my other hand and hoisted it in.
    I was using a #10 black-hackled halloween wooley bugger.

    That lake is also an impoundment with an old earthen dam with power baiters fishing from lawn chairs there and at the boat ramp, and also spread around about 1/2 of the shoreline, but gas motors are allowed. I paddle down to the far end from the dam and ramp, where there isn't anyone fishing from the bank.

    Anyway, lucking into a 10#er like that is a rarity! Probably never happen again!
  13. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,761
    Dillon, Mt
    Ratings: +1,709 / 0
    I caught a big fish like that out of a small lake in Snohomish Co. It was the worst tasting fish I ever caught. It was fun catching but shitty eating. It ended up in the garbage can.
  14. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,161
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,682 / 0
    This steelhead was quite bright so I'm sure it would have been something worthwhile to eat... if you eat steelhead. I believe I heard they dumped in the trapped hatchery steelhead last week so it wasn't in the lake very long.

    If I had a manner for transporting it home, I would have most certainly kept it for a friend. I never have a problem giving away a bright steelhead.
  15. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,356
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +688 / 1

    They'll troll by and ask what I'm using and then nod sagely when I tell them "olive bugger", "egg sucking leech" and "drunken dragon". Fly names are sort of ridiculous sounding.

    If it's a fly angler they're almost always doing better than me, and I'm the one on the receiving end of flies and advice.
  16. Olive bugger Active Member

    Posts: 2,464
    Woodinville, WA
    Ratings: +433 / 0
    Well, yeah, but he gave the fish away. Obviously it was defective, to accept a soft hackle with more than 13 hackles, in the first place.
    GAT likes this.
  17. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,161
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,682 / 0
    I have a feeling they've no clue what I'm talking about when I tell them I'm using "a black and olive, variegated Woolly Bugger with a gold bead head"... That even sounds strange to me!
  18. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,161
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,682 / 0
    h ah ah hah hahh aha .... so it continues... :D (unless you hang around the Fly Tying Forum you won't get the inside joke in regards to the number of hackle fibers for a soft hackle pattern)
    Olive bugger likes this.
  19. Olive bugger Active Member

    Posts: 2,464
    Woodinville, WA
    Ratings: +433 / 0
    Some fish are just not educated.
    Some even can't count.

    HAHAHAHAHA
  20. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,161
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,682 / 0
    Those would be the planters... :p