It was Friday morning. Last day of my week long trip, last fishing day of Root’s month long residence. As I reluctantly removed some beers from my cooler since I would be driving later that day, I drifted in and out of a conversation he was having with the landowners who had so graciously let us launch on their property all week.
“What about Iceland, should I go?”
“If its right its great. If not, its not. But yeah, I would call that a life changing trip for me”
I only picked up pieces of what they were talking about but as I pushed my little blue toon into the river, sat down and let the gentle current pull me as it wanted, it hit me hard. This was my life changing trip. I would never look at steelhead fishing the same way again. On top of that this would be the greatest day of fishing I have ever had.
And I didn’t even touch a fish.
I had finally acclimated. No wonder most folks spend weeks not days here. We had spent the entire week on a 10 mile stretch of water and I was just beginning to understand the rhythm. What water Bill and his brother preferred. What water I wanted. What time to be where. When the jet boats would be around. When the drift hatch would catch up. Where to look if the run you wanted was full. What water I knew had been fished because there were the same guys in it every day. Each run held its own mysteries. When to mend hard, when to just let it ride. What piece of a mile-long walking pace section had structure that held fish. What perfect looking water was featureless and best passed up. I hadn’t even touched the surface on what was productive at what flows. I was still just following Bill around. But I finally felt like I understood the river and was able to relax and soak it in. I had gained some control of my surroundings.
Unlike most trips I had no apprehension about leaving. I can’t explain that, even to myself yet. It just felt like everything was right in the world and I was set to enjoy the perfect day.
For some reason the jet boats seemed to be absent. We each got of the runs we wanted. It was that windless calm where each piece of river felt like a fish was right there. When you can hear the irregularity of the rivers flow gurgle. The water we covered, and the way we(they) covered it just felt like if there was a fish there it would be caught. That in itself is a great feeling. Just being in the game and feeling like you are fishing well. It was bliss.
A while back a well worn steelhead guy I know reminded me that even on the best day of steelhead fishing 99% of your time is spent fishing. Even if you land 10 fish that takes up just a tiny piece of the day. His point was to enjoy the process, and that’s exactly what I was doing.
In truth we could have just done the half float and had plenty of water to fish. But we had moved through the runs quickly, each of us hitting the pieces we wanted the most. There was no conflict. What I wanted most Bill passed up. What his brother wanted I had passed up. Bill catches fish everywhere so there was no keeping him off good water, although I did notice him grabbing some of the runs he told me he liked most. Sometimes when you get through a float too quickly, especially when no fish are caught, you think back about water you passed over. Maybe I should have fished the riffle instead of the tail out. Maybe it was too early for that deep ledge.
Not today. It felt like between the 4 of us we had covered the right water. The fish just weren’t ready to play, and that’s OK. Actually, that’s steel heading. People say that when river blow out on long planned trips, or when the run size sucks and nobody is getting fish. But you know what? Sometimes it happens under perfect conditions. I didn’t care. That morning I had thoughts of leaving at lunch and getting started down the road. I couldn’t push away from the table.
I had to see the upper float one more time. I’m still relatively new to the steelhead game, probably having seen around a dozen or so good rivers. I have my favorite spots. But after this trip I would say 8 of the best 10 runs I’ve ever seen are in this 10 mile section of river. 6 of those are on this upper float.
I dig long runs. There is just something about fishing for an hour straight without interruption. I’ve got a few I know of in the PNW. Some are super fishy, some I know don’t hold many fish. I fish them anyway. I just like the meditative quality of one cast, a long pause to reflect, one step, and another cast. Over and over and over.
This river is a whole new level. On the first day I joked that I would honestly be happy to fish the entire float we did, from put in to pull out and never pass a single spot. The more the week went on the more I realized I wasn’t far off! Grab a beer and fish for an hour. Walk back up to my toon, float back to where I stopped. Grab a beer and fish for an hour. Walk back up to the toon, float back to where I stopped. Grab 2 beers and fish for an hour and a half.
Shit, where did everybody go?
Push downriver until I find the guys in another perfect mile run and start again.
I had picked out my favorite piece of water, about mid-way through our afternoon float, that I decided I wanted to end my week on. It’s a popular piece and I had only fished it once all week. As I slowly worked my way down all I could think about was that water. That swing. That structure. The most nervous I felt all week was the half mile floating around a giant bend to see if the run was open. In the perfectness that this day was there was nobody there. I knew it had been at least an hour since somebody had been through it since they would still be in the middle of it. As I rolled out my first cast the immensity of the week began to hit me. I pushed that aside and focused on my fishing. It would be the last chance I had and I wanted to treat the run with the respect it deserved. I had become comfortable with the long line, the long leader, the little dry. Casts laid out easily, leaders turned over crisply, mends were the right amount. It all just felt right and I fully enjoyed how special that can be. I lost track of time but when my head finally popped up my boat was a looooong way upstream. It was time. I cracked a fresh beer I had stashed in the pack just for this walk, looked up at the tress showing every color trees know, and slowly ambled back to my little toon. My mind still in the moment as I floated down to the pull out, never thinking of the long drive ahead, all the emails when I get home, none of it. I just soaked it all in. It was as close to heaven as I have ever come.
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will
When your choices are between a pedophile religious zealot or a dem suddenly the pedophile religious zealot doesn't sound too bad. - PLOW