I was up at 3:30 making final preparations to the day. GoPro+spare batteries, wallet, shades, fly boxes, rod and reel, enough tippet, Keurig machine heating up, plastic bag for my phone in case I take a spill (Which I did on this day by the way). Ahhhh, how I love the smell of coffee early in the morning prior to a day-long fishing trip. I get so excited the night before that I rarely sleep on such occasions. I was in Mike's car before 4 AM and we were off with the GPS set to our first destination - the stream of dreams!
I knew the Spring run of wild bows was still going strong since it had just started a few weeks prior. We arrived and parked the car, geared up and hiked to the spot. The look on Mike's face was full of disbelief when we arrived. After looking at the first and biggest pool on the whole stream he turned and said, "dude, really?" "What?" I said. "I thought it was WAY bigger than this!" he replied. I laughed it off and while he was thinking this was some sort of sick joke, we headed down the steep decline to the water below the pool. The light hadn't touched any of the water yet, so it was hard to see if any fish were in the pool. We took turns drifting all different patterns through the pool until I decided to flip over some rocks.
I noticed right away an abundance of black and golden stones on the bottom of this rock. I also caught a glimpse of a few midges squirming around in a specific color - which I had tied a few weeks prior in the same size as well. I tied on the midge below a little black stone and began drifting through the pool. Within minutes I found myself in disarray. I'd hooked up with a big rainbow and had forgot to tighten my drag from the 0 position. The first run the fish made from one side of the pool to another sent my reel into free-spin mode and line tangled right away. Luckily the fish didn't run any further away, and I was able to free up my line and get the fish back to my reel. Another run ensued and even after tightening my drag a few clicks the spool spun, this fish was FAST! I tightened down even more and got the fish back on the reel yet again. What a blast on a little 6'6" 3 wt!!
Mike pulled my net off my sling pack and slid it under the fish, a beautiful rainbow!
We decided to let the pool settle after landing this fish, there were more fish in it and they were really spooked after that heated battle. We learned quickly that the fish wouldn't settle back down, so we opted to fish upstream in some different pools. Right away we spotted fish, but the dense tree cover and the fact that there was a downed tree laying across the river every 5 yards made it literally impossible to get a fly in front of these fish. We were forced to skip a bunch of spotted fish, but eventually found our way into an open stretch of water.
Without even seeing the fish, I could see some kind of commotion upstream. It looked like the males were chasing each other around, splashing all over....real aggressive!
I told Mike to cast to them and he blindly landed his fly at the top of the pool and within seconds he was into a fish! It was a BIG fish and it took off upstream in the skinny water like nothing. A few minutes after the hookset I realized my GoPro was off and turned it on just in time to capture the netting of this huge wild rainbow of Mike's. We got a few pics of the fish and released it...what a gorgeous fish, and BIG too! I'd have to say it was in the 23" range.
I threw together a short clip of the netting of the fish and the celebration afterwords which I'll post at the end of this since it includes pictures of other fish we got that weekend!
Mike wasted no time hooking up again later on in another pool This time a smaller one, but still a big, wild rainbow!
After Mike's fish, we couldn't seem to find anywhere open to fish, and when we did the fish wanted nothing to do with us. We took off downstream and I decided to sneak back up on a few holes that I knew had a fish or two. I made a few blind drifts and was quickly into another fish. After a few sweet-looking runs upstream from pool to pool, he was netted, photographed and then sent on his way.
Soon after, we headed back to the car to hit the next spot - the Willoughby River. I was hoping we'd run into some steelhead post-spawn but we had no such luck. We even checked out the closed streams in the upper sections just to see if the fish had made it in yet, and we didn't see any! The water was low and visibility was good, but we just couldn't find any fish - or even spook any.
I got to witness something awesome, which was the sucker run on the lower Willoughby. I was amazed to see HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of white and redhorse suckers (mostly white though) in shallow water. Mike and I actually fished for them for a little bit, landing a couple. I was suprised to see that some of these white suckers were HUGE!! I'm talking 5-6 lbs easily. Even some of the redhorse were quite large, above 7-8 lbs. I'm sure we could have stayed for hours and landed dozens upon dozens of these guys but we didn't have much time left before dark.
Our next destination was the lake outlet, one of my favorite spots in the NEK - so far. I gave Mike first whack, and told him to drift a big bugger through the huge deep pool. Sure enough after tying on a big black coneheaded bugger, he was battling it out with a gorgeous rainbow!!!
I netted his fish, snapped a few pics for him and we sent the fish back on its way...
After a little while of me fishing the pool, Mike headed up to the Lake to poke around and see what was going on. Not too long after he hooked into and landed another rainbow that was patrolling the shallows! We didn't get any pictures of it because the fight was long and we were unsure of the water temp, so a quick release was in order.
After that, Mike's day was complete and he headed back to the car to relax. I opted to fish the big pool for a little while longer. I decided to try a simple egg pattern below a bugger and hooked up immediately with two respectable rainbows back to back, in the 14" range. Must be they're in this water making a false Spring run to spawn? In any case, my phone was in the car, and the GoPro was dead....so no pictures of those beauties were taken, bummer.
I walked back to the car and the only thing I could think of was, "what an awesome day...."
The NEK hasn't let me down yet, and I have a feeling I'll be eagerly coming back every Spring for action like this! Another remarkable day on the water...the drives back home after a day of fishing are so much better when you've got a head and camera full of great memories...