Invisible - by Timothy Kusherets (Author) Steelhead & Salmon Drift-Fishing Secrets
There were little dimple ringlets at the surface, the kind you'd expect small trout to make when all hell broke loose
Timothy Kusherets (Author) Steelhead & Salmon Drift-Fishing Secrets
When rivers run low it's nearly impossible to find fish before they see anglers plodding along the river banks or drifting downriver. However, there is a trick that can be used by those fishermen willing to wade on their knees to convince fish that they're invisible.
"Dude, how are we going to get to the fish without spooking the heck out of them?"
"No big deal really, I'm going to crawl out there on my knees and hide behind the log."
"Do you think it's worth it? I mean, it's a long way out to the log just to find out they're a bunch of beater fish don't you think?"
"That's the name of the game baby…if you want the adventure you have to embrace it the moment it presents itself. It wouldn't be an adventure if you know in advance the outcome now would it?"
"What do you want me to do?"
"Just snap off photographs now and again. If I hook into fish right away snap'em off like crazy. Okay?"
I really didn't know what was going to happen. Kyle, my photographer, and I decided to recon some rivers that had been running low. I wanted to take some pictures of rivers that had runs of steelhead and salmon during the summer and fall seasons. Knowing what the rivers looked like when they were low would give us an advantage of finding holds easier during the fall and winter conditions when river visibility would be non-existent; but, on this trip that was not the case. Kyle and I had pulled off onto a dirt road which had meandered down to some honey-holes that only he and I knew about. On some stretches of the river you could see for about half a mile even as it skewed back and forth off in the distance.
Walking along the right bank we stopped to take a look through the binoculars for water disturbances. Since the river was low and clear it occurred to me that if any fish were about they would leave some kind of surface sign for us to see. It wasn't long before I heard Kyle yelling about some fish he had seen splashing downriver on the left bank about a quarter of a mile from where we were. Staying as far back from where he had seen the splashing I began to formulate a plan on how to get to the fish without being seen.
"Why do you have to start way over here? Don't you want to get a little closer?"
"I would but look how clear the water is. If we can see the fish movement from way over hear don't you think they'll be able to do the same thing? By staying close to the surface this far back they'll never see me coming. Even if they somehow got a glimpse of me the clothing and waders match the environment. I swear, it feels like I'm putting on a magic show for fish. Look at the log. If it weren't there I would fish from way back here, but that sucker's going to give me some great cover; I'm going to be invisible to those fish. My brown rod looks just like one of the branches. It might take a little while to get out there but it could be worth it."
"How many leaders did you bring? This is a recon right? I mean, how much stuff did you actually bring?"
"I'd love to tell you that I planned all this right down to the fish holding in the tailout but I didn't. Most of the stuff I brought today was for taking pictures. Kyle, I've got three leaders made and that's all."
"Yeah, but you brought other stuff to make some more right?"
"No. What I've got is what I've got."
The look on his face was something. His eyes were huge and I could see he wanted to say something incredulous, but he didn't, he just continued to stare after me as I started wading out on my knees to the log. The entire distance from the side of the bank to the hold was about seventy-yards and it took about ten-minutes to get out there and setup. I was far enough away from Kyle that neither one of us could hear each other so it felt like I was alone with the fish. After tying up the first leader I peered over the log and through the branches. I could see movement in the tailout. At first there were little dimple ringlets at the surface, the kind you would expect small trout to make when all hell broke loose. Battling Chinook were fighting for the best positions in the low water near the riffles. Fish were everywhere. As I looked upstream I could see that the pool in front of the tailout was loaded with a huge school of salmon. That section of the river was choking with fish and I was the only one there to see it. Eventually the salmon calmed down leaving me to focus on the first cast.
In an attempt to be extremely careful I flipped my line over the log and focused on watching the tip of the rod to show me where the mainline was in the drift. The line was moving through the drift and nearing the end when it stopped briefly. I set the hook and held on! I couldn't believe I had hooked one on the first cast. It was too good to be true, and it really was. I waited for the eventually tugging of the line but it never happened. Painfully long seconds went by when I dared to peer over the log to see what was happening. Nothing, nothing was happening which of course was not part of the game plan. I was snagged! Three leaders! I only had three leaders and I was about to break-off one of them bringing me down to two.
It took me a few minutes to break-off and retie, and the prospect of losing another one began to make me sweat. "All those fish and two leaders left; how ironic could things get?"
The next time I cast out I made sure to watch over the log enough that I could watch the line a little better as it made its way through the drift. The snag where I had lost the last setup was near the tailout so I made sure to cast just a little further to help me avoid it, and it worked. The mainline had just made it past the snag when it slowed down without actually stopping. I set the hook and waited and I didn't have to wait long. The salmon stuck its head out of the water and shook violently. It went aerial performing acrobatics that kept it out of the water as it tail-walked downriver. Staying as low as I could I made my way downriver and away from the log. Once I was sure that the other fish wouldn't get spooked by seeing me stand I was able to fight the Chinook on equal ground. I raced for the right bank in the hopes that it would stay away from the whitewater riffles. I could see that it was about to swim over some fast water when I flipped the bail and ran downstream below it. The belly forming in the line teased it back upstream which allowed me to get below it where I reeled in the line. The new tension made the brute fight even more, but this time it was above me and I was able to control most of its movements. Eventually it came in and where I laded it and posed with it just long enough for Kyle to snap off one last photo before putting the beautiful hen back.
"That was spectacular! I heard about this kind of stuff on T.V. but I never thought I'd actually get to see it in real life! Dude! We got pictures to prove it too! I can't believe what I just saw! You only had three leaders and you still got one! Are you going to do it again?"
"Yeah, I thought I would and then I thought I give you the last leader and see what you can do. You know, just because this is the first time you ever saw this kind of scenario doesn't mean that it's the first time for me?"
"I know, I know, I've seen your pictures before but it's another thing entirely to see it in real life! So you're telling me you do this all the time? I can't believe it, it's true, it really is like magic for salmon and steelhead; at least as far as being invisible."
"No. It doesn't happen all the time but the ability to do it all the time is there. It's a quick rule of thumb to remember; when the water is low and clear you have to get low to get fish or they'll see you. Is that clear?"
"Ha, ha, ha funny guy. Low and clear I get it."
Timothy Kusherets (Author) Steelhead & Salmon Drift-Fishing Secrets