After getting Jerry on fish - a very good High School buddy of mine named Spencer had made plans to hit the Winooski with me after reconnecting and talking for about a week via texts and phone calls. He hasn't fished for about two years and just got home from being, "away" for being young and stupid. But everyone deserves a second chance, and it was good to hear from him after so long - and even better to hear he's changed for the better. Before he went away for almost two years, we had been on the water together weeks prior to his departure, which was around Aug of 11', and all we had caught were huge redhorse suckers but it was still fun to fish with such a close friend.
After he went away, I had one of the best Fall fishing times and after we had talked and I showed him pictures and told him stories about my fishing experiences, he wanted to fish with me ASAP! It felt great to have someone want me to take them fishing so bad.
He had nothing in terms of tackle or even a rod and reel. I rigged up one of my spin rigs for him the night before, got a small box of spinners and lures I knew would catch fish and picked him up around 10 AM, bought his fishing license online and hit the water shortly after showing him my "fishing cave", which is a room full of fishing gear. He thought it was awesome - and so do I!
We hit a spot I'd always wanted to check out for Spring steelies. I knew it was a major hotspot for landlocks in the Fall, so I assumed it would attract at least a few steelies. It was pretty late in the year, and the smaller steelhead rivers around here had already started filling with smallies - meaning the steelhead were pretty much gone. The water was low for this time of the year, but it would be to our advantage - I spotted fish right as we arrived at the spot. They were further out than I would have liked, but they were fish nonetheless.
I kept thinking they might be just suckers, but the movement I was seeing did not match that of a sucker. Quick darting movements and just high speed overall told me these fish were either steelhead or salmon.
I helped him get rigged up with bait to start off, gave him a quick lesson on casting and where he should cast to and how to hold his rod during his drift - he learned quickly.
Less than 10 minutes after putting a rod in his hands, he was on a fish! I was so pumped to get him on a fish so quick. The fish put up a great fight, and since he had quite a bit of line out it was a lengthy fight in pretty fast water. When the fish got close enough for me to see - I was filled with disbelief....a sucker! A big redhorse, over 5 lbs. Still, a fish is a fish!
I was puzzled as to how he hooked into a sucker when none of the movement I saw in the water resembled a sucker. I shrugged it off and was still confident there was some chrome lurking in the water in front of us. He kept casting, getting good drifts - it didn't take too long to hook up again.
This time the fish went aerial right away and I knew it wasn't a sucker! It peeled line off the reel in his hands and he got nervous pretty quick. I could tell he was enjoying it and enjoyed the fight even more after I told him it was a steelhead. I grabbed my net and slid down the bank to net his fish - a healthy looking steelhead in the 18" range! Once the fish saw me approach, he made one final leap out of the water and that was goodbye. Bummer!!
I helped him rig up again and got him back out there right away, I knew there were more out there, and could see them. I stood and watched the fish as he kept drifting in the area they were in. The fish were hard to see because of the distance, but I tell they were in the general area he was fishing.
"There's one!" he said after setting the hook. A slight pause followed by...
Another steelhead for sure. This time it stayed on long enough to be netted - but was hooked deep. I pinch all the barbs when I spin fish now (which isn't too often nowadays!) so I put the fish back in the water in the net for a while and got my camera ready for Spencers moment of fame (after a fish fumble as you can see by all the dirt. After one quick pic, I cut the line close to the size 12 hook and sent the fish on it's way.
Beautiful Spring steelhead on the Winooski!
Spencer was happy about releasing the fish too - I could tell all my C&R stories had rubbed off on him and I really don't think he'll be keeping any future steelhead or salmon which is great. The more C&R the better, regardless of method.
After his fish, I whipped out the 11' 6 wt Switch rod and tied swung a white bugger - I couldn't get it as far as I wanted. The bank I was fishing from was really difficult to fish from, even with a Switch rod and Skagit casts. Eventually I managed to swing a few white leeches in the general area and my swinging line came to a dead stop! The first split-second was me beleiving I was snagged, but that disappeared as I began to feel tugs. Shortly after, the fish jumped and shook off...ugh....my first steelhead(I think) on my Switch rod and it was short lived. Oh well...
I let Spencer have at it again and it wasn't long until he was into another steelhead! This time he didn't even want pictures, he was happy with the fight & release of the fish! Since it was quite difficult to safely get pictures of fish without waders on, I could tell he was caring more about the survival of the fish than the bragging rights the pictures would have brought. I thought it was awesome of him. We high-fived and it felt awesome to help him get into fish...truly awesome.
After that fish, our short day on the water came to an end - he had to be back at his home before a set time and it was quickly approaching. We left the river and I felt very accomplished, and glad my good friend got into some Spring steelhead! I was in shock to be honest, the water temp was 65 when we had arrived in the morning, so I am sure we just barely made it in time for these steelhead. I bet within days they were back in the Lake with all this warm weather we got.
It just goes to show that checking out spots you aren't totally sure will have fish sometimes pays off - BIG time!