Extended holidays and bad weather make me a miserable person. This extended Christmas vacation was no different as the weather reeked havoc. Any chances of a white Christmas were dashed as it rained throughout Christmas Eve. Before you could say "ho-ho-ho" it was "oh no no" as the streams blew out. Once again the Grand inched it way down to fishable levels, only to quickly rise. On the bright side it got rid of all of the side ice and opened up the lower sections. Mother Nature was a huge Grinch and she scrooged me out of 4 days of vacation.

The weather outlook for the rest of the week was like a kid eating all of the chocolate the night before Christmas. It was to be in the upper 20s on Christmas, then for Saturday it was a possible record breaking 70F and on Sunday another cold front was to move through. I was limited on where to fish and Friday turned out to be the only good day. Due to the high water conditions, I slept in and headed out after 8:30A.M and took my time. The water was high and slightly off colored, but I knew where to find fish. The night before I tied sacs as bright as those pieces of fruit found on fruitcake that your mother-in-law insists on bringing every year, I could write a whole story about fruitcake from Christmas pasts. The fishing was decent and I had a lot spots to choose from. However another wave of rain was suppose to hit overnight and crossed my fingers that it would blow through quickly.

The wind overnight was loud enough I didn't hear the rain falling. When I left I noticed the roads were wet, but I had no idea how much rain fell. The temperature was warm and I rolled the dice as I knew side ice was melting. I arrived to see the river was higher and on the verge of blowing out. It was a balmy morning and I figured I had a 4 hour window. Whenever conditions are murky I often run tandem quarter size sacs with a ton of shot as the current was stronger. Running off the main current and riding the slots paid off. Me and another pinner caught fish, but we didn't pound them. As the morning progressed the water started to rise and the color got worse. I finally packed it in and passed on the morning outing to a friend.

Everything is blown out and with the colder weather for the upcoming week everything should be fishable. Tomorrow I'll have to butter up Jill in dispatch and try to weasel my way out of working this Friday....

Gifts for the Steelheader

With Christmas around the corner every steelheader is hoping that Santa brings them something useful such as a new rod, reel, clothing or in my case some eggs. But with my taste for high end stuff, I'll be lucky to get a pair of socks. 

Waterproof Electronics - We've done it, cameras and phones dropped in the water. So far to date I've destroyed 2 cameras and 2 phones and I lost a waterproof camera on a flight to Vegas. Cameras come in handy because of Murphy's law #6 - you land the fish of a lifetime and the camera is at home. Also make sure to carry extra batteries because of Murphy's law #7 - you have a 20lbs steelhead ready for the money shot and the batteries are dead. A great camera is the Olympus Stylus 770.

Cooler - Nothing better ends a hot day in October or April then reaching in for a ice cold beer or two or three.

Jerky - The breakfast of champions. I can't get enough of jerky in the morning with a scolding cup of coffee.

Grey Goose Vodka - I give the French credit, they make a kick ass vodka. A favorite Christmas drink - Hot Russian

1 oz Grey Goose
1 oz Kahlua
1 oz eggnog
2/3 cup of hot chocolate

Take 2 packets of hot chocolate mix and put them into the coffee mug. Add the shots of eggnog, vodka, and Kahlua. Fill the rest of the coffee mug with hot water. Stir. You may need to heat the drink up in the microwave for 30 seconds before serving. When nice and hot, serve.

Thermal Clothing - The majority of steelheading is done during the winter months and nothing ruins a day freezing your ass off after a couple of hours in the water. Under Armour is probably the most popular active wear used by steelheaders. They make undershirts, leggings and socks. It's not cheap, but it's well worth it.

To butter up the old lady for another season of steelheading, jewelry or a trip to Vegas will score big points. I did both and I got a divorce - maybe I should of taken her to Celine's show instead of Louie Anderson. Merry Christmas.

Honey, Look What I Brought Home For Dinner

Here are some pictures of some nasty looking fish I've caught over the years. The one fish above looked like it swallowed a softball and barely put up a fight. I felt sorry for it when I beached it and pulled the hook out. I was debating whether I should put it out of its misery. Instead I released it and watched it struggled to swim off.

The other fish was actually fat and fiesty even though the bottom of his mouth as deformed. What caused it? I have no idea and I've wondered how these fish even survive let alone eat.

Every year I catch a few fish sporting some gnarly lamprey wounds or scars.

Caught this fish after ice out. Steelhead can be vulnerable to getting injured or even killed by chunks of ice because most of streams along Steelhead Alley are very shallow. The wound pattern shows a narrow long cut the length of the back and it was caused by a sharp piece of ice.

This little brown trout had what looks like a recent lamprey wound.

It just shows you how tough these fish really are. 

Dick Godard Sucks

I want to kick Dick Godard in the balls. Dick is Fox channel 8 weather dinosaur and basically made my weekend miserable in regards to the weather. With the crappy conditions I had to contend with last weekend, I was looking forward to making up for that debacle. Fortunately, the fishing gods took pity on me and blessed me with some fish. Earlier in the week the weather outlook for the upcoming weekend was calling for a chilly Saturday morning followed by temps in the upper 30s with bright skies. For Sunday, there was a 30% chance of rain. But, but and that's a big but, because every angler knows how accurate the weather reporting can be.

 Saturday morning, I drove east only to see the river clogged with slush. It wasn't those small annoying blobs, it was more like those blobs that could devour a steelheader. I rolled the dice as I knew the night time temps were to be in the 20s, but I figured the river would be slush free due to the blowout and warmer temps earlier in the week. With the sun, I thought the slush would burn off by noon, wrong. I made the best of a bad situation and tried fish through it. I re-rigged with my slush buster set-up. I stacked all of my shots low and I had to drop shot it between chunks. The shots would enable me to get everything down quick before a blob devoured my float. I managed to catch some nice size fish including one large male that ripped through several slush chunks with relative ease. The temperature barely made it out of the 20s and the wind made it felt even colder. I looked at the time and it was almost 12:00P.M. It was time for plan B and headed to another river even though I knew it was higher and off color. I arrived to see there was no slush, but the water was dirty. By now it was almost 1:00P.M and it still felt cold. I figured there was no way the slush would burn off. The fishing sucked and I decided to give it a try again tomorrow. On the way home, I listened to radio and the temperature was 29F and this was 2:00P.M. Later I found out the slush in fact did burn off around 2:00P.M and the fish turned on.........d'oh.

Sunday it was back for another kick at the can. Instead of cold it was much warmer albeit very windy. I arrived to see the river was very low and had a nice color, that meant sleath mode. I knew the river well enough that I could find fish easily when most people unfamiliar would walk by. Luck for me I tied very small sacs the night before. I plugged away at various spots working along the shale ledges, pocket water and any dark water. My efforts paid off with some beautiful fish in their winter colors. The crowds were small and it wasn't hard finding a spot. Then around 9:00A.M it started to rain, I figured it was a passing shower, because Dick said there was a 30% chance. As the morning progressed the rain never let up and the wind literally soaked me.

When ever a river is low and clear, I start on one my "death marches" I started to cover a lot of water, because fishable water was few and far between. The phone was on stand by and I got the scoop where the action was. As expected the morning bite shut off and I moved down river. With all of the walking sooner or later I would hit the motherload of fish. Well, I found them and some. It was a classic wintering spot - a moderately deep run that spilled into a large tailout. That with some brown trout eggs made for some excellent fishing including one large bull that came in a hefty 10 pounds. That 30% chance turned out to be 100% as it was still raining when I decided to go home at 3:30P.M. as my hands were pruned beyond belief.

With Christmas coming around I should give Dick a break, because I don't want coal in my stocking as I wanted some eggs. But that doesn't matter anymore as Christmas came early, I was able to score some eggs this weekend.............nice

Winter Steelhead Tactics

winter steelhead on the rocky river

Fishing for steelhead in the winter separates the boys from the men. Frigid temperatures can test even the hardiest of steelheaders. Even though we can wear the warmest of clothing eventually we'll succumb to the elements. Dealing with side ice and slush. Working the pools and holes can be a long drawn out process that can test the most patient of anglers. But the rewards can be great if you know what your doing. 

Location, location, location

When water temperatures get into the low 30s, a steelhead's metabolism is almost catatonic. They'll seek places in the river where they'll get relief from the current. That's where reading water is invaluable. When I fish during cold periods, I look for the slowest flowing parts of a river. Places I'll fish will be the lower sections close to the lake. Here the rivers tend to be wider, more flat, and a little deeper. Any structure at the bottom suck as rocks and lumber will be utilized by fish to conserve energy. Other places will be wide bends and the tail end of pools. On bends, fish will hang off the main current, so watch the speed of the bubble line. At the tail end of pools, fish prefer to be there as the current is deflected up and away. Other areas to target include along shale ledges and drop off in pools that are not deep. If side ice is present, drift a float as close as possible as fish often use the ice as cover. 

winter centerpinning for steelhead

Time of Day

When night time temperatures get into the low 20s or teens, I'll sleep in. The reason why is slush. Fishing in slush is pointless and quite honestly a waste of time. At times slush can be so thick that it's impossible to fish. The best thing to do is go later in the day, especially on days when the sun is out. As the day progresses, the sun's rays warm the water. Gradually the chunks of slush get smaller and smaller. By mid to late afternoon, it's usually all gone. The other advantage of going later is the water temperature might go up a couple degrees. That little bump could the difference whether a fish is willing to move to take your bait or fly. The added bonus is a lot of the best spots will be vacant as the majority of anglers that tried to fish in the morning are gone. 

Cut Back on Bright Colors

I've heard some people say that bright colors are effective on steelhead in cold water because  "bright" colors get their attention. There's been plenty scientific studies that show fish will react in certain light and background conditions. While it's true that bright colors are more effective in stained conditions and natural colors in clear water. It depends what river I'm fishing on. The Grand is a river that runs off color the majority of the time. But in the winter when the clay and mud bank freeze up, the water will turn to a tea color. In water like that I'll use a chartruese or pink colored sac. The other rivers run much clearer and in the deeper sections the water takes on a greenish hue. In conditions like that I'll use white, blue, peach, or red as they're more subtle. The same can be said about jigs as my favorite color is simple 1/32 oz white one.

Getting Jiggy With It

The majority of steelheaders will use sacs exclusively. During cold weather a jig can be deadly. I carry a wide variety of jigs of different colors. The best color for me are white with a red or pink head. Another favorite pattern is a white zonker. The marabou breathes enough life that a lethargic steelhead might be tempt to take it.

Be Patience 

You'll need a lot of it when it because these fish won't budge as you'll need to practically put it on their nose. That means working the section and having to try different colors or presentations. You might have also move around to find where fish are holding. 

Unfortunately due the shallow nature of the Steelhead Alley's streams, they're prone to freezing over quickly. Luckily since we're located at the southernmost range of steelhead, winters here are not as severe as winters farther north and west. But there's been several years when we simply had to wait at home and hope for a thaw. 

Gary Bettman Hates Sloppy Seconds

Sean Avery
The biggest shit disturber, asshole, scumbag and punk Sean Avery got sent to the principal's office for saying bad things about his former puck bunny Elisha Cuthbert. It all started when the Star's pest made the comment 

"I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight." 

Avery was punished indefinitely by commissioner Gary Bettman for the crude comments and kept him from playing against the Flames and for good reason as Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf is currently dating Cuthbert. Instead of suspending him, Bettman should have thrown him out on the ice and let him and Phaneuf settle it with a good ole fashion NHL scrap. 

I think the whole thing is blown out of proportion. Trash talking is a part of sports and there's some guys that are masters at it. Avery will always be an asshole because that's what keeps him employed. There's always been a place for players like Avery in the NHL, the guy that gets under your skin, throws you off your game and relishes that role. But you have to wonder if the Stars regret signing him, because he a history of questionable behavoir on and off the ice. 

Back to the river.