Catching my first steelhead was exciting. The next best thing is guiding someone else to catching their first steelhead. This was one of those days.
David and I began yaking on a steelhead forum last summer. He was sharing with me at that time that he had hooked-up with some steelhead last spring, but just could not land them. He was frustrated with the situation. I told him then that I would get a steelhead in his hand sometime during the upcoming steelhead season and David held me to it.
Davids story with fly fishing is a good one. He has only been fly fishing for a few years. He decided he wanted to learn to cast flies, so he got outfitted and taught himself to cast. He has already been on a self-guided cutthroat trip out west. And has recently started collecting the components to build his first fly rod. David is motivated to say the least!
In early November, David and I got together on Pennsylvania's Elk Creek in hopes of putting his first steelhead in his hand. We spent the morning learning how to identify water that holds steelhead, how to select appropriate offerings, how to set the proper depth of the fly, and how to make a proper drift of a fly through a run. David took to all of it well and was a perfect student. Unfortunately, the conditions on the Elk on this particular day were tough. I was able to land a beautiful dime bright chromer early in the morning, but that was all we were able to bring to hand.
David learned a lot on that outing. He agreed to give it another swing in a month and then he headed back to central Ohio. A few weeks later he set out on Mad River with his new skill set and landed his first brown trout. You can't help but like a guy who gets out and makes the most of what he has learned where ever he can.
We got back together this morning and headed back to PA. I had scouted the PA lake Erie tribs and the eastern OH tribs yesterday and decided David would probably fare best back in PA on Walnut Creek. Normally Walnut Creek has good runs of steelhead, and a tremendous amount of fisherman on the creek to go with it. Over the past week the temperatures have dropped and there has been heavy snow fall. The creeks are low and clear and there is plenty of ice to impede fishing. These conditions have deterred the majority of fisherman. So, the Walnut has become a nice place to fish again.
David and I reviewed what we did on the last trip and based on the conditions he decided he wanted to drift a beadheaded nymph with a pink crystal meth sucker spawn trailer. He had tied the sucker spawn himself and was particularly proud of the fly.
We walked past the big slow holes on the Walnut that had several bait fishermen around them and made our way to an area called "The Chutes." The Chutes is a narrow area of the creek with fast flow and a deep central channel. If you can control your drifts effectively, The Chutes is a fly fisherman's dream. I set David up on an area that typically holds a nice number of fish and is a little wider. Once the sun got a little higher in the sky, the steelhead started to actively feed.
In no time, David was hollering in my direction that he had a FISH ON. He quickly got the fish on his reel. He did an excellent job of following my directions and was quickly able to move the fish over to the shallows. His first steelhead was in his hand and he was geared-up. He had landed a nice five and a half pound 24" steelhead. And even better, he landed that fish on the pink crystal meth sucker spawn that he had tied. It does not get any better than that.
David wasted no time getting back to the drift and before I knew it...he had another FISH ON. He again quickly landed this fish. This buck was a little skipper, but a steelhead nonetheless. David was proud of his day.
We decided to walk up stream and survey some more of the creek. There was not much going on upstream and we decided to go find something to eat before hitting Elk Creek. On the way back to the truck David pointed down to the run we had been fishing previously and said, "There's another pretty nice fish." We looked at each other and headed straight down to the run. I made about 3 drifts over the fish and picked up a pretty nice hen of my own. The morning could have not been any better. We both landed 2 steelhead and each lost another. Life was good.
We did hit the Elk for a couple of hours after lunch. The scenery was great, but we had no luck with hook-ups on the Elk. On the upside, the weather was warming and the sky was blue. We had a nice trek along the creek and shared a few laughs. It was a good time for David to reflect on his day. And, I would be remiss not to mention the old wrecked truck wrapped around a tree that brought us both a chuckle as well.
David was an excellent student and posses the type of motivation that will allow him to be successful at anything he takes on. He did a great job of seeing the big picture of catching steelhead on the fly and put in the time to make it all work. I'm proud of his accomplishment and will always remember his special moment on the water.