Upon our arrival Monday, few fish had been reported entering the rivers on the island. Signs told us that fishing was hit-or-miss and that there weren’t many steelhead around. It is just the front of the season. Last year, it took three days of fishing before David or I got the season’s first fish.
This year seemed like it was going the same direction. Water temperatures are cold and there is still snow lying on the side of the road; early season conditions abound. However, one of the wonders of coastal steelhead is their ability to show up suddenly. It was a slow grab but eventually line started clicking off the reel. I lifted the rod to only get enough time to see the fish momentary. A bight hen swam away leaving my fly behind her. Not knowing when we might see our next fish, we moved on to the next spot. In a place we call the Island hole, David made first pass through. I followed behind him with a little bigger tip and heavier fly. At the bottom of the run, I got a second chance. The grab was incredibly light, so much so that I thought I was sliding atop a piece of structure. The rock turned downstream and I lifted the rod. Moments later, we landed the first spring steelhead of the season; a beautiful fresh hen who had come in on the last tide. Sea-lice attached firmly to her side.
Day two and the rivers had dropped into prime shape. We made our way downstream, fishing most of the prime holding water. Other than a few bumps, nothing was touching our flies. Eventually, our travels put us in the Spruce hole, a long classic run with heavy structure at the top and flat pool at the bottom. To fish it correctly requires leader and fly changes. David took the bottom. Somewhere through his first pass, he found a fish that would give a tug and nothing more. After multiple fly changes, he moved on. Casts later he got into his first fish of the season. A fresh buck, weighing in at about 14 pounds.
The Spruce continued to produce. Fresh fish could be seen pushing over the gravel bar on the far side to get their way into the holding water at the bottom. Every fish there and so far this season have had sea-lice and fought with a new fish attitude. Like most years, one suspect left the pool never to be seen. Fishing on the Prince of Wales can be just like this. Fresh fish from the salt can change everything quickly. We were lucky this year to arrive when they did. Fingers crossed that it continues. The peak of the run should be sometime in the end of April or beginning of May.