Herb Wagner and I met at 4:45 a.m. then headed to Elk Creek hoping to beat other steelhead anglers to the best spots. We did. It was still dark when we got there, yet we were only first by a minute, or two. Herb was the first fisherman out of the parking lot with me following just barely in sight in the darkness. Herb knew right where he was going, of course.
The creek looked quite muddy in the dim light of Herb's flashlight. Rigging lines was all but impossible, for me anyway. Herb was already rigged. Fortunately for me another angler passed by and loaned me his brighter flashlight, and with the aid of my fishing glasses I tied a bright orange soft egg to the end of my tippet.
Morning broke quickly revealing water that was slightly colored, but not as muddy as it had seemed in the darkness. In fact, the water looked perfect, up just a little and just a little colored.
That did not mean the fishing was perfect though. Rather, it was just plain slow. Several steelhead broke the surface as they often do in the morning, but the variety of baits and my fly did not entice any hits until about a half-hour had passed. At the bottom of the drift while my soft egg was swinging out of the current a steelhead grabbed it and headed straight away spinning my reel handle so fast I did not dare try to attempt to slow it until it turned on its own.
Finally with my fingers on the handle it seemed that I might have some control when the fish started jumping. Its colors were brilliant even in the dim morning light, iridescent pink and purple surrounded by sparkling silver.
After a few jumps the steelhead ran again.
Other than Herb, the other anglers who had crowded into the pool were visitors to the area. They did not pull their lines from the water until they could see the fish streaking toward them, then only because I yelled. "It's heading for your line!"
I would have been tempted to comment on their rudeness except that I had chatted briefly with most of them and they seemed like a good bunch.
I could not tell exactly how large the steelhead was, probably 8 pounds to 10 pounds, a nice fish but nothing out of the ordinary. Reports so far this fall indicate that the steelhead are of a good average size, better than many years. A 16-1/2-pound fish is the largest steelhead reported so far. The biggest last week was over 13 pounds.
I had fought the steelhead about 15 minutes when hook and fish parted. That was fine with me, although of course I would rather have gotten a few photos.
Steelhead were surfacing more often through the next hour. At some point Herb suggested that we cross to the other side of the pool. I liked that Idea. Other fishermen had crowded to within a few feet of us on either side. Most of the time another angler's line crossed in front of me so I could not cast. No other fish hit until we were across the creek, and I switched to a Pink Snowman, a streamer of my own design.
After just a few casts with the Pink Snowman a steelhead hit it going away, making a long, low jump during the first run. This steelhead looked to be a bit bigger than the last and every bit as colorful. I would guess that neither had been in the creek for long.
This battle was shorter. Still, I got a very entertaining 10 minutes before it broke my tippet. I should have switched to a heavier tippet before starting to fish. That always seems to be the case... shoulda'.
That was the extent of my action for the day. I took a short drive down to Elk Creek Sport Shop to buy some garbage bags. Then I drove back to Legion Park, where I had been fishing, and picked up litter while waiting for Herb to hook a steelhead so I could get some photos. But lunch time got close and I had to leave before he had any success.
The steelhead run this fall, as usual, has had its ups and downs. Early on the flows were too low for the steelhead to get into the creeks. Then when there was rain, there was too much rain and the creeks were blown out. Between rains there has been some fair to good fishing. Maybe the best that can be said for it is that the steelhead seem to be larger than usual. It could be only that the earliest steelhead to run up the creeks are large. We can only wait to see.
If you go and the creek you planed to fish in not in god condition, check a few other creeks before heading back home. And be prepared with flies or baits of different sizes and colors to suit various water conditions.