Spring has exploded along Steelhead Alley as it feels more like July then April. It was that sweating my balls off type of heat as the temps hit the 70s to 80s starting Thursday. The plants on the forest floor were quickly sprouting in an effort to get as much sunlight before the canopy cut it off. Everything seemed to be in a hurry the birds tending to young, insects buzzing around, toads fornicating like crazy, hillbillies gathering fiddleheads and me trying to squeeze in another fishing trip.
Ole Red’s A/C hasn’t worked in a couple of years and I wasn’t going to drive out east in the sweltering heat. Instead I choose to fish the Vermilion as the Rock turned into a fishbowl several days ago. Saturday turned into a long work day and I welcomed the overtime. Finishing around 3:00P.M, I drove out west. From the past few days on the Rock, the bite was on after 5:00P.M. I took my time as I knew finding a spot wouldn't be a problem. It was still in the high 70s when I arrived and I was in my gym shorts and didn't even bother to put socks on. Hell, I could of fished in a thong and that would guarantee nobody would even dare come near me.
The Vermilion is the westernmost river on Steelhead Alley and it has some of the most striking scenery. The high shale cliffs, riverine forests, abundant wildlife and perhaps some of the best gravel beds. This is why the V can have great spring runs. The problem is the sediment and its been an issue for the past several years. The river takes on that diarrhea brown color and it reminds me of what the toilet looks like after eating those circle K taquitos - fucking nasty. It seems to take an eternity to become green and most rivers are fishing great well after it has finally cleared. Many including myself, felt that the heavy sediment load effected runs of fish as steelhead generally dislike water with high sediment. This was the major reason why I stopped fishing the V as every time out, the fishing sucked ass.
Armed with both the fly and pin, I set out find some fast deep water and dropbacks. The river was still slightly off color and I found some fish on the gravel. This section was better suited for the pin as the run cut along some downed lumber and several trees hanged over. I had my last container of steelhead eggs and tried to coax some droppies to come out and play. It didn't take long for the first fish to hit - a small male. With the warmer water, I'll use a 2X tippet to quickly muscle in fish. With the precision and quickness that rivals a NASCAR pit crew, I had the fish back in the water in about a minute. But, I knew some monsters lurked somewhere in that darker water. Unfortunately I got a bad case of fishoffitis and lost five decent size ones including a huge male that turned and burned right under a log. I didn't mind considering I got a quick fight and I didn't have to horse them into. The action died off and I decided to see if they were any droppies below some gravel beds I knew. Walking along the bank I could spot large pods of redhorse suckers, some were spawning and others were feeding. Since I didn't see any steelhead, I figured why not. I tied on a small peach globug and with the fly rod I casted close to some feeding fish. With a couple of quick mends I could feel the shots bounce along the bottom and the line stop. I set the hook it was a large sucker well over 10lbs and in the faster water it gave me a decent fight. Redhorse suckers are a poor man's carp and they lack the wiliness and brute strength that carp possess. I kept wandering upstream plugging away at holes and runs. It turned out to be a nice evening as I caught fish in every spot and watched some people in the woods picking for fiddleheads or looking for those elusive magic mushrooms.
To beat the heat, I woke up early Sunday morning as the temps were to be in the 80s. Today I was fishing the lower section and left the fly rod at home. This section of the river is nasty as a lot of trees were in the water, ideal for pinning. Float fishing along downed lumber is very effective, especially when conditions are bright. Dropbacks and pressured fish often hide within or along the lumber. Yet another sign that the steelhead season is coming to an end is when I hooked into a catfish. I've heard of some guys hooking into catfish with sacs but this was first time I caught one. During the summer months, the V has given up some nice size cats. But a nasty case of poison ivy put a stop to catfishing last year. This section changed a lot from last season and I quickly made some mental notes for possible trips next year. As the morning wore on, the sun and heat started to weed out the anglers. After 6 hours on the water, my arms and neck were turning red and that's when I decided to call it a day. By then I was one of the last ones on the river to make the long walk back.
Both days on the V were productive for me as I caught fish considering the conditions were very challenging. I think there is a last kick at the can for this upcoming weekend. The hot weather will be gone Monday and the cooler nights will drop the water temps back into the 50s. This could keep some fish in the river until they feel the need to head back to the big pond.