The Swing is the Thing…. The Tug is the Drug…. and ICE is really far from NICE!
As fly fishers, we have already accepted that in most situations we will catch fewer fish than our bait chucking cousins (second cousins twice removed) and for most of us we are just fine with that. My steelheading roots are here in the heart of Western PA’s Steelhead Alley along the shores of Lake Erie. Most of the fly fishers tend to dead drift eggs, nymphs, and small streamers under an indicator for two primary reasons. The first is that some of the tributaries we fish are just not big enough or are too crowded to swing flies. The second reason is that you flat out hook more fish. So why with runs that “aint what they used to be”, crowds that are ten fold what they used to be, and mother nature making life even more difficult…. why would you want to chase chrome on the swing?
I thought you’d never ask. Up until this year, I had always looked at spey casters and two handed rods with equal parts envy and ignorance. I had no idea how to do it and I had never figured out where to start. It seemed less complicated to run a drug detox program for Lindsay Lohan that it was to incorporate an entire new dictionary with terms like grain weights, skagit, single spey, double spey, snap-t, perry poke, sustained anchor, yadda yadda yadda…. (you yadda yadda’d over the best part, oh I mentioned the bisque) So last year I purchased a switch rod, a skagit set up, took a class, watched a bunch of video, and have practiced as much as I had time to. Do I look like Simon Gawesworth or Ed Ward? Ummmm, not really but I am starting to get the hang of it! I owe a big debt of gratitude to Bob and the guys up at International Angler for my intro spey class. I also owe a huge shout out to April Vokey over at Fly Gal Ventures for an outstanding class on intruder style flies and teaching me how to tie tubes.
So the past 12 months has bought a few pretty cool firsts. Back in the fall I caught my first salmon on the swing and I felt like there was perhaps a light at the end of the tunnel. This week was huge as I caught my first steelhead on the swing. It was far from the largest steelie I have ever caught and with near arctic temps the fight was a bit subdued as well but I have to tell you…. THE TAKE WAS ABSOLUTELY FRIGGING AMAZING!
As my 10 feet of T14 and intruder came to the end of the swing, I paused on the dangle. Not because of my spey casting prowess, but because my fingers felt like they were about to fall off. It was 21 degrees not including the wind chill. As I attempted to breathe life into my frozen fingers my rod lurched forward and was almost ripped from my hand. I recovered and after a spirited battle, my first steelie on the swing was complete.
So after losing my swing cherry, I took a day to meet up with CW in Erie. It was supposed to be cold so I figured the crowds would be at a minimum. As I drove through Ohio, the snow began to fall and fall it did. It came down so hard and fast that I sought shelter off the road and waited it out till morning. Morning came and it was still coming down. By the time I met up with CW, this is what the parking lot looked like….
Yes, those are the cars of two crazy fly fishers who for most of the day were the only people on the water. Why were we the only people on the water? Well it wasn’t really water at that point. The best way I can describe it is attempting to fish in a slushee. Nine casts out of ten I couldn’t get my three split shot or my fly to sink down below the slush. Other than foul hooking a sad looking hen, the day pretty much went like this….
Ice cubes anyone????? The day was still a win as we took a beautiful walk up miles of snow covered creek, talked like old friends do when they haven’t seen one another for some time and laughed about crap that only guys spending the day without their wives/girlfriends can laugh about. So if you have yet to pick up a two hander, give it a try and remember…
The swing is the thing, the tug is the drug, and ice pretty well just sucks.
Tight Frozen Lines,