Friday, December 13, 2013

Steelhead is the Season

Ten years living in Montana and I never made it to Idaho looking for Steelhead. Something about spending an entire summer on a raft makes one less interested in hoofing it over a pass in search of migrating fish along with the swarm of anglers migrating with them. But I am a known lush for any fishing trip sporting a strong sales-pitch: In this case it starts with "Wednesday. Going Steelhead fishing. All you have to do is jump in".

Who can say no to that? Chris has the truck loaded with enough gear to overrun any small country. Mountain passes, road blocks and food shortages will be no problem for us. Provisions and tackle reflect the conditions we expect to find in the next state over: cold temp, lots of wind, with a good chance of big fish. Extra sleeping bags, neoprene gloves and wool everything are backed up with spools of heavy tippet and bottles of whiskey: Experience has taught us there is nothing worse than being cold, sober, and skunked. At least we know we have control over two of the three. Game on.

The pass wasn't as bad as expected and we popped out of the truck to a balmy 40 degrees. Not the unbearable conditions that can define Steelheading trips, so far so good. Setting up camp takes no time flat (we are here to fish, camping is major second thought) and we head to the river. The first run of the day is long flat glide with a deep bank. We run our rigs through, mending and re-mending to keep them in the strike zone. We run three more similar runs with no definitive takes. Time to crack a cold one and re-tie rigs.

If there is one thing we have learned over the years it is to sloooooooow down when the fish aren't biting. It also gives you a chance to crack those victory brews pre-emptively. Gets the mojo flowing. I am a unabashed superstitious fisherman and will continue to be so until it stops working. After changing depth and distance Chris starts working the center of a juicy mid-river trough. His third cast shimmies down to the soft water and finally gets a *tug*tug. We had heard that the stockers fight like bulldogs and the natives are the acrobats. This fish feels the hook and goes immediately airborne. Maybe we can get the hang of this. . . .

No sense in going steelhead fishing if there isn't some wild weather. I think so anyway. After a beautiful fall day to kick things off the weather got a little more seasonally appropriate. Sometimes the boat is frozen to the trailer. No big deal.

      who's ready for a little fishing!!!?

Needless to say we will be back in the spring for more. Once you have tasted steel you are on a one-way street. The river iced over solid two weeks later, giving the fish and the fishermen a break for the winter. Its good to know that they are there, waiting for the skies to soften and make the next push upstream. We will be there to greet them, fly rods in gloved-hands waiting for the first jump of the next native steelhead.