Two days later, the water had dropped significantly and the water was gin clear. Since the fish had been hammered hard for two days, they were now on high alert.
From the start, the pool that was extremely productive for us on Saturday morning was completely unresponsive. There were a few fish around, but you could tell all of them were shell shocked.
Michael joined me a while later and our decision was to hike downstream. On our way, we passed by a shallow pool where a few fish were hiding under a cedar branch. Michael tried to toss spinners at them but it was a difficult spot. While he moved on, I sneaked into position and delicately drifted a worm to the fish. BAM!
Unfortunately, since I had to downgrade to 4lb fluorocarbon in order to get bit, I had little control over this fish, even if it appeared to be only 4-5lbs. The fish eventually ran me into a log jam and snapped me off.
After I re-rigged and re-baited, I drifted another worm back to the same spot and almost immediately I was hit! Similar to last time, I had no chance at all. After losing a second fish, the pool had been disturbed enough and the fish went into lock jaw mode.
So I hiked just 50 yards away to fast corner run. At the top of the run was a riffle where a few fish could be seen spawning. There was a smaller steelhead in that group that might be feeding on the loose egg. I got into position and carefully presented the worm toward the fish and it came upstream to meet the worm. Got it!
This time, the fish was so shallow it had little places to go. I actually managed to keep it from returned toward the deeper run and pulled it up onto the wet gravel with little issue.
The fish in the riffle stopped responding to the worm. This pod of fish composed of one larger female, one large male, and a couple of smaller males jostling for position. I tied on a spinner since I figured the aggressive males would try to kill anything they deemed intrusive. It took two casts until one of the males charged at the spinner. This male cartwheeled through the run and ran angrily. But it was not match for the heavier gear that I used to fish the spinner.
Another few drifts to the pod of stream downstream yield the same result...an angry male charging at the spinner.
The run was adequately disturbed by this point. I had to move on.
A little hike later, I came upon another pod of spawners in a shallow riffle. I hooked one of the males on the spinner but the hook came out during the fight when the fish jumped.
Michael had hiked downstream all the way to the Suicide Pool. When I finally caught up to him, he reported catching one and losing one. He said the fish were already non-responsive, however, I wanted to give it a shot anyways. I got into position and took one drift with the worm when a fish grabbed it. Michael couldn't believe it.
There were quite a few fish in the pool so I methodically worked the pool through pods of fish but they would not respond anymore. By this time, it was time for Michael to head to work. No sooner than he had left shouting range, I fished the lower part of Suicide Pool and hooked up on the worm.
I fished the lower part for a bit but didn't get a respond. I headed back to the top of the pool with a spinner to see if there were any aggressive males. It took about 5 drifts when a fish smacked the lure. I fought this fish with maximum pressure and had it beached already. But since the fish was so full of energy from the short fight, it wriggled back into the depth before I could grab the camera.
It seems like the pattern of the day...if you fought a fish, the nearby pod of fish would become extremely wary and they will not bite anymore.
If I rested the pool a little bit, there might be a chance the fish would respond again...and that's when I got another hit on the spinner by a fish that was hiding under a log. It came flashing out quickly to grab the spinner. I tried to pull it away from the log quickly and pulled the fish to the surface. The fish sensed the upward momentum and jumped 3 times and threw the hook. Bummer.
Afterwards, fish seems to have turned off on the spinner. I tried fishing the worm again for no response. I switched to a small two egg roe bag but fish were even dodging the roe bag as it drifted in the current. At the end, I found a little spoon that I bought in British Columbia. I originally got this spoon to fish for Pink Salmon. It's slender shape allows it to track well in faster current, but it will also seductively wriggle in slower current.
With this lure, I got 3 fish to hit violently. This lure has the right action to somehow trigger some very aggressive bites. I beached two of the fish but wasn't able to get a photo. The other fish managed to throw the hook within seconds.
Finally, it was about time to work my way back upstream toward the car. Using the spoon, I managed to get a lot of attention from aggressive males from all kinds of little spots. A few males would even chase the lure as I retrieve it for the next cast. Strangely, I lost all the hits with this lure. I suspected that the single siwash hook on this lure had a hook wire so thick that I was not able to set the hook properly. It was especially frustrating when I was getting fish to hit from unlikely scenarios. On one occasion, I was presenting the lure toward a male sitting out in the current when a female charged out from under a log to destroy my lure. I thought she was hooked well until the fish jumped and threw the lure back at my face.
Finally, I was back at the deep run. This time, the fish appeared to have remembered me. They were all super spooky and even the males backed off the charge.
The cedar tree that was productive earlier was very dead as well.
I was about 50 yards from the pool at the access point when I saw a male steelhead sitting just behind the root of a washed up tree. I was drifting the worm to the fish when I saw a flash of white jaw opened but missed the worm. This fish was so well hidden under the root that I didn't even know it existed. The male was spooked off and I lost sight of the willing fish. Relying on blind faith, I drifted that spot again and had a take on the second drift. Yep! Got that fish again!
Unfortunately, this was a very fresh fish full of vigor. It powered up the rapids for 50 yards and I had to chase it the whole time. At last, it found refuge under a log jam and finally snapped me off.
By this point, I had gone into a 0/6 streak without landing a fish. I really wanted to finish on a good note. I hiked a bit upstream of the access and found a nice log jam that may hide a fish. I carefully drifted a worm toward the log jam when a flash of silver took my worm!
This time, I managed to get the fish out from the log jam into some deeper riffle. It was still a tough fight since the fish used the current to its advantage and swam with the current downstream. I ran after the fish trying to keep the rod tip high and the drag light. After what seemed like a 50 yards dash downstream, the fish finally settled down a little and it was a tug of war trying to get it out of the current into the shallows. At long last, I prevailed and ended the day with a beautiful fresh hen.
Speaking with the people on the stream, everyone reported a very difficult day. Many were skunked and a few lucky ones landed a single fish. On days when fish are spooked and the water is gin clear, you have to be extremely careful about presentation and your presence around the fish. That was my key to success going 9/17 on an otherwise impossible day.