sheening v. 1. the terms “sheened” and “sheening” connote partying, questionable decision-making and public humiliation.
The New York Times

Wetsville, WA—The loop of fly line hung just below my reel, pinched between my index finger and thumb. The line straightened against the eyelets of my rod and the spool on my reel gave line. One turn. Two turns. I stopped breathing. Time halted. My pupils dilated and my heart raced.

I set the hook and felt it bump. And just like that, I knew the fish was off. The endorphins popped in my brain and rushed through my system. I stood in the run dumbfounded as to how I could have failed to hook-set this fish and I realized I was shaking. Right then a thought jumped into my head.

Tiger Blood.

This is what it must feel like. Intense. Charlie Sheen wasn’t kidding.


Earlier that morning, I had awoken around 4 a.m. to rain pounding the small tin roof of the cabin deep in the heart of vampire country. From that moment on, the precipitation never let up. The plan was to swing flies from the gravel bars and beaches and dredge bright patterns between runs. Starting the morning with a grab from a steelhead like that upped the stakes—the fish were no doubt in the river.

We covered a few different sections from the boat and bank without further luck. We were less than 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

I cast my bugs into a log ridden bank and my bobber went under. I was pretty sure I’d snagged some downed timber just below the surface. The trees in the river were massive and their limbs stretched to unseen depths and reaches. But then my bobber moved and I felt the head shake. The big steelhead broke and thrashed across the water’s surface and then crashed with an explosion. BOOM. He turned and came directly at the boat and I stripped furiously to keep the line tight. Just before smashing into the boat he turned 180-degrees and blasted away in the other direction. I felt the hook dislodge.

As he disappeared into the chalky water I heard the steelhead say: “Winning!”

The rain continued. It wouldn’t let up. We had spent too much time casting from the banks and were behind schedule. At some point I had the bright idea that a cold IPA from the cooler might actually warm me up—and it did. 

The sun was going down and we still had two and a half hours before the take out. We were running and gunning. The third fish took my fly in a slow deep drift. I set and shit hit the fan.

It was a smaller steelhead but it was still ocean fresh and pissed off. Again this fish ran directly at the boat and bounced off the oar. This steelhead had one gear—go. I never was able to tighten down my fly line and it arced into the air as if electrified. The unmanaged line subsequently wrapped around the middle of my tip ferrel. As soon as the fish did come tight—my rod shattered.

“I’ve got problems,” I called out to no one in particular. The fish had gone under the boat.

Game over, I thought. I waited for the pop when tippet separates from leader. Three quarters of my rod, broken tip and all, dangled off the side of the boat. I readied for another section to explode. The entire broken system groaned under the pressure of the fish.

And then he suddenly changed direction again. The tension let up and he came charging back under the boat.

All this happened really, really fast. Blink-of-the-eye fast.

My buddy Mike tried to strip in his line, but my steelhead found it first. Now Mike’s line was somehow clusterfucXed around my line and the fish was going for another run. I dropped my rod and began desperately trying to unknot my fly line from the upper ferrel and the broken rod tip. It had managed to tangle into something that looked like a Bimini Twist around the eyelet.

OK, now it's game over. My guide Aaron was still on the oars, trying to figure out what was happening. He finally looked back at me and then at my rod tip. He assessed the chaos quietly. He shook his head.

“What the fuck?” he said.

“I’ve got problems, man,” I said. He stood up from the oars and let the boat drift. He grabbed my fly line and held it as I worked the knot.

“Grab this,” said Aaron. I grabbed the fly line and he took the net. I tried to pull the fish closer to the boat. For some reason, the steelhead didn’t bolt. Aaron jammed the massive net into the water, reached up and grabbed my fly line again. My jaw went slack as the the steelhead moved over and jumped into the net.

I’m Sheening. I’m full-on Sheening, I thought. If Charlie Sheen went steelheading, this is exactly what it would be like.

Everyone in the boat let out a howl as we made it to a slow eddy to quickly release the fresh winter steelhead.

Aaron shook his head in disbelief after the fish powered away from the bank. He announced the final verdict.

“What a shit show."

[Author's note: If this blog made no sense to you and you are not one of the ~16M viewers of this youtube clip... well... enjoy. Watch.]

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