Sometimes when you think you have things planned out, a spurt of the movement change of plans can be a great thing. That was the case for me over the weekend. My original plan was to take things easy and catch up a bit on things, however a phone call from my buddy Jonathan quickly changed that. It seemed he was in a bit of a bind, he had planned a guided trip on the Olympic Peninsula for steelhead with a friend of his from Colorado, but his friend got the flu the day before the trip. So he had a seat for the trip that needed filling a it just happened the my schedule became clear rather quickly.
So Friday night I got home from work tossed my gear in the car and we headed for the coast. As is common with Forks, WA it rained most of the night, however we woke to clear skies in the morning and met up with our guide Jim Kerr (http://www.raincoastguides.com/) just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. With the rains overnight the rivers had bumped up a bit and the clarity was marginal, but things were dropping and with any luck some fresh fish would be pushing in on the high water. As it would turn out luck was with us...
With steelheading I always set my expectations very low, if I hook a fish it is a great day, it is typically more about just being out there. Therefore when Jonathan got things started out nice sea-run cutthroat and a beautiful 4-5lb native rebright hen, the day had already treated us better that I would hope. However it just kept getting better, as I followed suit with a similar sized wild hen that was still working her way up stream to spawn. As always with steelhead fishing not every piece of choice looking water is going to hold a fish however persistence typically pays off and not to mention it helps having someone as knowledgeable as Jim at the oars. Jim put us on a great looking run with some down timber that he said typical holds a fish or two. He was right and just where you would expect a steelhead to sit, there were two of them and Jonathan and I had a double going. It was quickly clear that Jonathan's fish was the bigger over the two, however it didn't end up stay on long enough for us to see just how big. However my fish decided to hang around a little longer and I ended up landing a beautiful about 8lb chrome buck.
Native steelhead, it doesn't get a whole lot better.
The fishing remained good throughout the day with Jonathan and I each picking up another steelhead. However on of my highlights for the day was still waiting as downriver a ways I got into my biggest fish of the day and this season so far. A wild hen that I hooked part way down a rapid and that decided that it wanted to go up that rapid. This left me being pulled on from both ends, the raft going down the rapid and the fish up and by time we got to the bottom, there were maybe five to ten wraps of backing left on the reel. With that I hoped out of the raft and chased the fish on foot, finally gaining the fly line back by the time it decided to go down the rapid. This worked to our advantage though as we were able to land it in a side channel at the bottom and I briefly admired the 13lb hen before sending her on her way again.
My big fish
In the next hole down Jonathan hooked into a nice fish, however after a couple of minutes the steelhead won out and continued on its way. However a few casts later Jonathan got a consolation prize with a small jack steelhead and then while demonstrating a couple useful small stream steelheading techniques that apparently work wonders Jim got a nice hatchery steelhead.
Jonathan working some prime water.
Jim with his "quick and easy" steelhead
At this point I really would have thought that the day couldn't get any better but it wasn't over yet and Jim still had a couple of tricks up his sleeve. Although we had missed our shot at a double earlier in the day, take two went a little bit better and this time Jonathan got his big fish with about a 13lb hen, while I got another buck that looked about 8 or 9lbs.
All that I can say is that this was one of the most memorable days I have ever had on the water with one of the best guides out there. I really can't image a more knowledgeable guide or more pleasurable person to fish with then Jim and the information and knowledge that Jim passed along would have been well worth the price of admission alone. Add the fishing to the day and things went well above and beyond any expectations as it will be a trips that I will be talking about for along time to come!
The sunset over the Olympics and Lake Crescent, a great end to a great day