Steelheading on the Salmon River
by Les Albjerg
When looking over the huge selection of rods that TenkarBum carries, I would encourage everyone to spend some time checking out the carp rods and the Kyogi in particular. This is a fantastic rod.
Yesterday, I finally fulfilled a dream of mine and that was to fish the upper Salmon River with my Kyogi 63. Last fall I hooked and failed to land a B run Steelhead (15-20+ pound fish) with the rod. I had it up to the boat and the guide knocked the hook out of the fish's mouth with the landing net. B run fish spend an extra year or two in the ocean. The upper Salmon has steelhead in the 8-15 pound range (A run). Last fall taught me that the Kyogi 63 is capable, yesterday taught me how flexible this rod is. It was a tale of extremes.
The morning in Stanley, Idaho began crisp and clear with no wind and 11 degrees. There is still 3 feet of snow on the ground. The river is running about a foot and a half high but was fishable. In the first place we fished, I used a shrimp and two split shot. On the third cast I hooked a steelhead. It was a short lived fight of about 30 seconds. He outsmarted me! When hooked he turned downstream and I dropped the rod to put pressure on, and he spun around and swam right at me. I was too slow raising the rod and he was able to spit the hook! The lesson was learned! The Kyogi performed perfecly. So, here is a powerful rod that can cast soft bait with no problem. I was not impressed with the canned shrimp I bought to try out. I was using 6 meters of 12 pound copolymer line with 18 inches of 1x fluorocarbon. My fishing partner was flyfishing and had to stop after about 5 minutes to clean the ice off his guides. I chuckled until I went to collapse the Kyogi and discovered the top two sections were frozen! Solution: take off your glove and hold your hand over the joint until it thaws.
We went 30 miles down river to get out of the cold. The next place we fished is were the East Fork comes into the main river. A big lesson, don't forget your line holder! I spent 15 minutes untangling my line. The yarn line markers are awesome! I switched from bait to a weighted #8 Kaufmann's Stonefly pattern. I fished with no weight. The Kyogi can fish a weight nymph all by itself! I was amazed at how well it could cast such a light bait. I was dropping the fly just where I wanted to. Nobody was catching fish in this spot. Josh was hoping to see me hook into a large B run fish. They run up the East Fork to spawn. I did hook and land a fish! I dropped the stonefly into a nice seam and felt the unmistakable take, and set the hook! It is amazing how much power the Kyogi has when you set the hook like it is a steelhead and a 4 inch cutthroat comes flying out of the water at supersonic speed! I am not sure who was more surprised me or the fish! The lesson learned is the Kyogi is a sensitive rod! There was no doubt in my first hook up that felt like a freight train, and the second that was a tap-tap! At 11:30 we headed back up stream and most of the good holes were occupied. We drove to Josh's favorite hole, but the snow was too deep for the half mile hike. Plan B was the hatchery holes. It was a good move.
Once we got to Stanley again we could see the storm moving in. I was fishing the first hole with a two fly setup when the wind went from about 5 miles an hour to well over 20 with gusts into the 30 -40 miles an hour! Just before the snow started to fly, I drifted my flies through a nice hole, and bam! I hooked into a steelhead. It took me into the riffles and I was able to turn it 4 times, then the line went slack! I broke my hook! That fly was tied over 20 years ago, and I noted that it had mono on it before tying it on. When I change flies, I always leave a tag so I know it has been fished. This morning I went through all of my nymphs and tossed all those that had been used. Upon close examination I could see the rust! That cost me my first fish! He was pretty much spent when the hook broke and he didn't just dash off! The Kyogi never felt maxed out and I didn't have to chase the fish. When I turned around in the blizzard there was a guy behind me that looked like he came out of the Orvis catalog with a big smile on his face and he said, "That was amazing! I have never seen anyone fish steelhead with Tenkara." We chatted for awhile, and I told him about TenkaraBum.
The blizzard howled, and I continued to fish. I had to put a float on to get the drifts I wanted. However, I could still cast cross-wind! Josh couldn't with is large diameter fly line. At about 3:30, I turned around and there were three flyfishermen watching me fish! I took one step toward them and they said, "Don't stop fishing we are amazed at the drifts you are getting in this weather." The Kyogi is a wind rod! I told them about TenkaraBum. From about 2:00 to 5:00 I had 4 more takes. The fish were too fast for me in the lousy weather. At 5 we were too cold to keep fishing.
This was my first time ever fishing fixed line for a whole day. The big lesson I learned is the Kyogi is a versatile rod. It isn't a light weight rod, but it can be fished all day. It can detect 4 inch fish. I am sure Josh was getting hits in the weather with his fly outfit, but couldn't detect them. I could with my line off the water even in the wind. This isn't just a Carp rod. It is beefy, but it has grace too! I have a red one, and my "fan club" all comment on how beautiful it is as well. I cast it two handed, but often followed the drift one handed. My final thought is if you are not ambidextrous like me do take the time to learn casting both ways.
Take a good look at the Kyogi it is more than a Carp rod. I am tired of long releases on Steelhead and am looking forward to landing one! The season in Stanley is just beginning. The Kyogi comes in my favorite color, yellow and I still have a hole in my arsenal at 54.
Walk softly and carry a long stick. - Teddy Roosevelt (almost)
Tenkara has no strict rules. Enjoy tenkara in your own way.
- Eiji Yamakawa
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.