Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Family Affair

It was 12:45am as the truck rumbled to life, the bed laden with warm clothes, waders and rod tubes, the cab containing myself, my father and my brother at the wheel. We had a 6-hour drive ahead of us with the goal of arriving streamside as the sun rose, already having stopped at an early-rising fly shop for New York licenses.
We headed north on the turnpike and it stayed very dark. The myriad lights of a town in a valley below us glowed strangely, illuminating the jigsaw streets of sprawling developments.
The road turned twisty a few hours later as I dozed in and out of consciousness in the back seat. I registered that we were off the highway and I’d probably been asleep for a while.
We stopped for licenses in front of a darkened bait and tackle shop. The sign on the door claimed to be open for business at 6:00am. We waited in the abandoned parking lot. It was 6:09am.
The lights flickered on and we wandered inside, stretching our legs. Licenses purchased and water conditions discussed, we reloaded into the truck and headed to the water.

Low and clear was the word, with it getting lower and clearer as the weekend went on. Rigging up via headlamp in the parking lot of packed snow turned to ice, I imagined seeing this place at the height of the king salmon run, overflowing with cars and interesting characters. Thankfully, we were one of three cars there. Ultra cold conditions would make for sluggish fish, but its not like we had many weekends to chose from.
We walked down the slippery bank and headed downstream from the spillway, hoping to find some nice holes unoccupied. We did, and stepped into the water.
As the three of us spread out over a nice stretch, the zen experience of dead drifting in silence, with only the pull of the current on your legs and the zinging of sharkskin line registering in your mind.

As the day wore on, our feet got cold and we hooked a few fish. Each of us brought one into the net. Mostly, they were haggard fish that had been in the stream for a while, bearing the scars of run-ins with other’s hooks.

As the sun sank we fished a deep tailout and wrestled one or two more steelhead towards shore. We hiked back to the vehicle in darkness and peeled off the layers of clothes that kept the frostbite more or less at bay during the day. We rehydrated in the glow of our headlamps and drove off into the night looking for a place to stay.
This was a day I was looking forward to for quite some time. Seeing the fish my family and friends were pulling from the Great Lake tributaries while I lived far away was always something I enjoyed and I couldn’t wait to wade back into the water for a try at it myself. It was great to be on the water with my father, who is coming in to his own as a fly fishermen, and it was great, as always, to watch my brother do what he does best.
We slept like logs and awoke early the next morning for day two on the water…


Bigerrfish said...

Mark, great day out there looks cold,, great fish pics the brownie in the net takes the cake!

AZWanderings said...

Great photos and story. Pulling family and friends together for a trip like this is certainly memorable. Thanks for sharing.


Matt said...

Thanks for reading, guys. I appreciate it.

MurphyK said...

The section up by and at the dam still give me nightmares. Stream to ourselves and 2 monster fish lost. Link to our post of a few pics of our trip to the land of never never warm

Mark said...


I saw those pictures. Looked like a great trip and you guys caught some monsters. Cahill takes some great photos.

We never got to the dam area, I usually do not fish it. The two largest steelhead I ever hooked were on Oak. It has some nice fish.