The early run of sockeyes has wound down, and the late run hasn’t started yet. It’s my favorite time to be on the Russian River. Water levels have dropped over 9″ in the last three weeks, and Lance & I were hoping that there would be some hungry trout in the river now that salmon scraps have gotten slim. We parked in Pink Salmon and, after gearing up, hiked a short time to get into the base of the canyon. Lance decided to continue testing his Hevi-Bead system; I decided to start with a Helmet-head sculpin tube fly. I also threaded a very small pink bead on the tippet hoping the extra attraction might trigger an instinct. (You know, egg-headed anything.) We fished through the first two runs and down into the bottom of the canyon where it flattens out. No luck for either of us. Since neither of us have had much luck in the broad flat area right out of the canyon, we decided to hike down to the Powerline Hole and drop in just below a couple of die-hard salmon anglers.
Although the water was down, wading can get tricky below the power line, so Lance decided to continue down while I stayed in the river and waded the far bank to fish the middle pockets and the heavier water on the trail side. I also decide to change tactics. Since the salmon anglers had been cleaning a couple of fish I decided to try a new fly from this winter, a cluster egg pattern. Much larger than a regular egg pattern this is a #6 3XL hook with four small beads attached via mono loops; the whole thing is then palmered with a dubbing brush of blended rabbit hair in different flesh colors. In all, it’s a mouth full. Two small fish fell for it within the next 200 yards. I was encouraged. Towards the bottom of the run, in deep heavy water next to the bank , a big rainbow tapped the fly. My six-weight doubled over as the fish headed down out to the heavy flows in the center of the river. Although it was touch and go a couple of times, the fish eventually wore down and came to shallow water, and my net. Under 20″, but broad and heavy; probably a Kenai River fish up for the feed. Easily the largest rainbow I had caught in the past few years below the canyon. A couple of quick photos (necessary as Lance was out of sight and I did need proof) and back into the depths. This new pattern just graduated into my regular arsenal.
I ran out of fishable water short thereafter and came down to meet Lance. He had been waiting where White’s trail meets the river, watching a couple of salmon anglers working a run and hooking the occasional fresh sockeye. We decided they were either really late first run fish, or really early second run. We leaned towards the first choice. Either way, anglers were putting chum in the water when they cleaned and filleted fish. The Egg Cluster took one more nice fish just down stream from White’s trail where the river runs up against a high bank. The interesting thing about the last fish was that he came back a second time after I TAG’d him. This almost never happens in my life. Big rainbows on the Russian don’t often give you second chances. Yep, I’m definitely tying up a few more of these puppies.
From Red Salmon on down the water became flatter, thinner, with a lot more salmon anglers to fish around. We decided to call it quits below Grayling parking as neither of us had had even a bump. In all we had a good day on the water – no complaints.
I’ll work on getting a tying pattern sheet put together at some point in the future. Since I like the name Egg Cluster, watch for that title.
On a side note/ soapbox: While we were resting at White’s trail a small grizzly showed up. She was meandering upstream, poking about in the river and on the banks. She wasn’t very big, but was distinctive with very blonde fur and a hump on her left shoulder. We were with about six other people, so there wasn’t any real danger. However, a non-fishing wife of one of the salmon anglers said that they had been running into her for the last couple of days and she could get “snotty”. I took a few pictures, and then as she got closer, we all moved up onto the boardwalk and out of her way. It was while I was taking photos that I noticed she had a blue/white coho fly stuck into her scalp just in front of her left ear. And later, looking at the images, that I noticed another (pink) fly in the armpit area of her front right leg. No wonder she get cranky, she’s been pierced!
That got me to wondering; how did she manage to get flies stuck in her in two different locations? Surely an angler didn’t cast to her. If the flies had been in a salmon that had broken off, shouldn’t they be lodged somewhere around her mouth? I would think so. Maybe she wandered into one of the many flies that litter the river banks, trees, and rocks. That makes a bit of sense for the one in her head. Given that most of the salmon anglers use 20 – 25lb test, a dangling fly could easily be driven into bear hide before the knot breaks. And the one on her upper leg? I don’t know, maybe she got it while wading across the river. I have a photo of her, up to her chest in water, coming across the river. I know I snag up lines from the river bed with coho flies and sinkers still attached every year.
In reality, the how doesn’t matter much; it happened. The Russian River is managed for multiple user groups, and currently bears (and other wildlife) are one of those user groups. We need to start cleaning up our litter, especially flies. And, it seems, our brother’s litter. We must become “our brother’s keeper” because our brothers seem to be ignorant of the consequences of their actions. And since I know I’ll never be able to stop, or change, the uncaring; I ask you, our readers, to stop and pick up fishing waste whenever you come across it on the stream.
Unless of course, it’s attached to a bear.
Until next time… Rich