by Josh Linn, the Fly Czar
Last Saturday, Mike McCoy from Snake Brand Guides shared a presentation on Czech nymphing. He then followed up with a great tying session at the Tyer’s Table. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the European nymphing techniques are gaining momentum here in the Northwest. If you want to catch fish, it’s a very effective method.
The next day, Joel had an outing with his Reed College class so Nick and I volunteered to help. By 9:00 AM we were at Harpham Flats ready to meet up with the students. While we waited for the van to arrive I gave the boys a quick tutorial on Czech nymphing.
The first time I used the Czech nymph style of fishing was about 10 years ago. This technique is a little different from the other Euro nymph styles like French or Spanish. Czech nymphing uses a short line, nymphing right off the top of the rod technique. It utilizes a shorter leader with a low rod angle and leads the flies through the water. The other techniques involve a longer leader where you dead drift under tension with a little more range.
Nick and I stepped into the water and in a couple of casts, I had my first fish to hand. I was a little rusty, but it came back fast. We moved just a little further down the run and in no time I landed another Trout. At that point, I looked up at Nick and told him, “That’s how it’s done.”
We headed back to the truck to see what Joel was up to, but he and his truck were nowhere in sight. Thirty minutes later he returned. He had received a phone call from the van driver stating they had just crossed the bridge in Maupin and asked if he could come up there to meet them. Joel drove into town and didn’t see them anywhere. He called the driver and asked for specifics as to where they were. That is when the driver asked Joel to spell Maupin and put it into his GPS. He put the phone down and Joel heard cussing accompanied by, “How the heck did that happen?” The driver picked the phone back up and they were somewhere south of Eugene. Joel instructed him to return the group to the college. They would not be fishing today.
That meant we had the day off and it was time to fish!
We headed up the road to a spot above the boat launch we all love to fish. My Czech nymph rod was still rigged up and Joel hadn’t gotten his lesson yet. We returned to the river. As I‘m explaining the technique of leading the flies through the run, on the second cast I hooked a Trout.
Moving upriver about a step I made another couple of casts and was into another fish. Joel’s got the idea. He took his rod and worked his way downriver. After a minute or two he’s into his first fish.
We keep fishing and hooking fish throughout the run. Joel is like a surgeon dissecting every nook and cranny of the tail-out. Every time I look down the river he’s got another fish on. I switched to a heavier fly fishing deeper and immediately hooked a much bigger fish. I can’t lift it off the bottom very well with the 10’ 3wt, but when I do it appeared to possibly be a Steelhead. It rolled on the surface and popped off. At that moment I feel doubt creep in and wonder if it really was a Steelhead.
I continue to work my way down and a minute or two later I hooked a steelhead. This one stayed on and there is no doubt it is a Steelhead. I give out excited cheers as Nick made a splashy dash to bring the net. Any doubt about the first fish being a Steelhead dissolved because I can see this fish is smaller than the previous one.
I fought the fish hard to not over exhaust it. It’s a fierce battle and all I can think about is not breaking off the light 5x tippet I’m using. Nick grabbed the net and I lead the fish toward him. The fish turned with a last big thrash and it broke off.
That’s not the first Steelhead I’ve broken off and it won’t be the last. Even just hooking one had me elated, to say the least. I re-rigged the rod and handed it to Nick. I didn’t need to fish anymore, my day was complete.
By now, Joel’s up at the trucks having a sandwich in his kitchen on wheels. I walk up to chat with him about this new technique. While we are talking we watched Nick catch a couple of fish.
We spent about an hour fishing and put on quite a clinic. I don‘t know how many fish we caught, but it was a lot.
While we are eating a little lunch and Nick was polishing off some leftover cake, a couple of our regular customers pulled up. They tell us about their day of fishing. It was a little different than ours. Joel’s tells them about the Euro technique and offers to give them a little demo.
We all head back down to the water. As Joel is giving them a quick rundown on what to do, he hooks a fish. We offered them our rods to give it a try. They were getting the hang of it pretty quick but weren't hooking any fish. I'm guessing they figured we caught them all by this time. One guy handed me back the rod and asked for a further demonstration. I was a little reluctant still riding high from earlier, but I give in.
I make a couple of casts and hook my third Steelhead of the morning on my Trout gear. This one is closer to the tail out with a rapid right below us. There is even less hope of landing this fish with such light tackle. It is a heavier fish and I tried to put a lot of pressure on it. It made a dash for the rapid, but I stopped it and turn it back towards us.
The pressure to perform was real with an audience cheering me on. By now, I‘ve switched to being confident about landing this fish. A large piece of soft water right behind me would make for a great landing spot. I formulated my plan. Leading it back I realize there is a shallow sandbar between the fish and the promised land. I took a quick look around and reaffirm that this is still the best plan. As I pull it across the bar (bad idea) the leader broke and the fish came off. The fish is surprised at is sudden freedom, so Nick and I both make a move at it with visions of us tailing it. Not so much. The fish gathered his senses and swam off. Like I said earlier, that wouldn’t be the last fish I ever break off.
Oh yeah, I guess you guys were reading through this looking for a fishing report. Some of you may have heard the fishing has been tough and there’s not a lot of Steelhead around, I’ve heard differently.....and Trout fishing is awesome.