Monday, February 13, 2017

North Lands Roadtrip : BC Steelhead Pt. 2

Not many people are going to live out of a tent for a month looking for a trout. Maybe a few hardy souls out there consumed with the passion for a true giant, but not many. A trout in a gentleman's sport fish that sips delicate dries and gets stalked during pleasant summer weather. A Steelhead is a maniacs sport fish that crushes things that wander into its marauding path as it moves through a drizzly costal jungle. Some of the thickest country this side of Alaska: Bears, moose, and the Sasquatch could be yards away and you would never notice. Knowing that bites most days will be infrequent it is passion alone holding you up through this imposing environment with only the hint of the possibility of the grab, the possibility of a monster Steelhead lurking that keeps you rooted in a run. He's living in there, somewhere, I know it. Just need to swing one right onto his nose and . .. . . WHUMP*

Living out of the truck over a long guide summer shapes you into being the perfect drop-in exportable angler. Tackle bags, rods, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tent, cooking gear all become fixtures of the daily routine . It is definitely in all ways training for Canada. When people ask me what I do instead of saying "I'm a fishing guide" I should say "I train to catch Steelhead". The vision of Steel starts honing you from the first dry fly cast of cold springtime. The equipment needs and circadian rhythms all get finely synced to the ebb and flow of rivers. Once you are here, it's like a latent part of you was there all along waiting for you to come and see in again for yourself.. . . .

Swing. . .. Swing. . . . Swing. . . .

There is an erie feeling that occurs after all of the planning and day-dreaming is done and you feel the first icy cold step into the run. Everything up to now has lead to setting foot back into this memory, one that somehow drifted in and caught purchase deeper than most others can ever manage. And now here you are, standing in that memory.

Swing. . . . Swing . . . . Swing . . . .

The present narrative blends with legendary trips of the past making facts begin to distort. Our middle week was slowed by yet another 48 hr downpour that bumped the area rivers into chocolate milk stage. Always part of the gamble when spending a month in the bush leaving yourself to the mercy of the weather god. Damm you Poseidon! We tried changing rivers to dodge the bump to no avail, the big rivers and the massive ones all swollen from inches of cold fall rain. As with most things when we started trying too hard things began going downhill quickly. Broken rod, lost shooting head, punctured waders and of all things a beer shortage made for a low week of morale. We made the most of it and hunkered down to do some serious partying. We are here to stay Fish, better get used to us even if you won't bite! While the fishing slowed the cards heated up as hand after hand was played into the night. The Boxer rumbled ominously. Rain licked the tent and the Steelhead moved in right under our noses. With nothing to do but wait and tie flies we started to get creative.

After a few days in camp, and especially during the slump, we found ourselves spinning bugs up by the bushel full, odder and more exotic variations being concocted every night. It has to be the fly, right? A dozen got tied a night all hoping to be the one that would crack the code the following morning. Blue? Mauve? More Rubber Legs? Amherst feather? Peacock? Jungle Cock? More. .. .

Close observation caused by drizzly desperation and weeks living in the wild suggested the omens were improving: I am no mystic but I definitely believe in fish-magic.  The Powereagles came back and the ravens left. Afternoons became less windy. Casting got tighter. Rumors of fish being plucked downstream came our way. Finally it broke. After a long stretch of slow action the river lowered just enough and the steel started clicking again. *tug,  tug   *TUG. .. . . . A big hen came to hand at lunch high up in the canyon where we had never pinned a fish before. Omens. Gorgeous. Silver, chromed-out fish head-shaking and refusing to give up. A fresh-fresh-fresh one from the salt. Hmmmmm, maybe a few more of these have moved in too. Gotta go fishing to know.

As so often happens the final days of the trip fell in the "Epic" category for steelhead fishing, everyone getting multiple tugs and some truly stunning fish being landed. It isn't all about the fish after all, the adventure and camaraderie with the boys is what makes this trip happen, but ya sure like to go out with a bang. Lifting a big Steelhead out of the water is a pause in time, the normal flow of experience getting stopped dead in its tracks when you finally get a hand on one. The Tail. The Eye. That power that calms for just a moment, the icy resolve leading it upriver idling in your hands. Magic.

All the planning and day-dreaming will start soon enough as we all already know we will be heading to the Steelhead Holy Land again next year. Once we are there the whole routine will be as natural as flicking dry flies to cut banks. Latent memories revived with that first swing in costal BC.

Bring me back.