There's always that ting of anxiousness
when you make that last turn down to the trailhead leading to the
river. It's the middle of the week so you don't expect too many
vehicles to be crammed into the small parking area, at least you hope
not, but you never know. It's a beautiful spring morning and word is
the steelhead have been running for over a week.
I'd heard the weekend crowds were
pretty heavy so I was pretty happy to see only two vehicles parked in
the lot. It was nearing late morning when I got there so some of the
earlybirds had probably come and gone. I was pulling on my waders
when another truck pulled up and the lone angler came over to say
hello and greet Gabby, who was running around checking things out.
He'd been a couple miles downstream that morning and though he wasn't
giving up, he'd had no action and figured the run was about over. He
said he was going to check a hole downriver and I was quietly
relieved he wasn't going the same way I was. Well then, I told him,
I'd go up the other way.
I hiked in and looked down the steep
bank at a favorite run I like to fish and was a little surprised no
one was in it. After a clumsy clamor down the hill I stepped into the
river between the snow and ice still hanging on the bank and used a walking stick I remembered to bring for a wading
staff. I had to get out in the river a little ways to clear the
overhang stream-side brush and I don't dance around those slick rocks
as well as I used to so the stick was welcome in the steady current.
It hung off my wading belt by a cord while I fished.
A size 14 prince nymph was my choice
under a single split shot and and indicator set at about six feet.
This rig has worked before for this sort of fishing where the casting
is basically slinging it upstream and watch it go by. Slowly working
my way upstream I had my eye on a promising hole ahead. The rig
seemed to be right, ticking bottom and now and then hanging up. I
broke off a couple of nymphs trying to pull free and twice I got lazy
and tweaked a hook that straightened on snags.
Other than enjoying the sunny day
listening to the river and the grouse drumming up in the woods there
wasn't much happening and I was thinking about hiking up to another
spot. Then it struck! I didn't need an indicator to tell me a fish
was on – the line darted sideways and the rod jerked to the
steelhead barreling downstream! Fish on! Game on! There's nothing
like the thump and tug and when it cleared the water I suddenly
wished someone was watching. After some fun minutes I was gaining
line and the fish was coming closer – and that's when I realized
I'd left my net in the truck. Well, I'd hand land it out in the
river, have a look and let it go. I got it to about a rod length away
when it pulled deep and was gone. The hook broke. The one I'd bent
back with my hemostats. Good going, dummy. Standing in a river
feeling like an idiot.
The second steelhead came 30 minutes
later, smaller than the first but strong and bright. When it tired I
grabbed it's tail and held it up for a look. Without a net to hold it
I couldn't mess with the camera, so I lowered it to the river leaving
me with just a story. By then I needed to get out of the water and
warm up a bit so I hiked back to the truck to see Gabby and get my
net. The fellow who came in after me was gone but there were a few
other vehicles there. I'd planned to run Gabby on some spring
woodcock on the way home, but there was still some time to fish.
I'd already hooked two fish and short
of falling in the river there wasn't much that could go wrong with
the day, so with net hanging on my back I headed the other way and
half slid down the hill into the river to try another promising spot.
I tied on a #12 gold marten nymph just to try something different and
before long was into a fish. It figures, ready with net and camera for
a hero shot of a big steelhead, the third and last fish of the day
was a tiny resident trout that hardly covered my palm. Still,
catching fish is better than not catching and Gabby found a couple of
woodcock and a grouse in some cover on the way north to top off a
satisfying full day.