Three years in the making. This was the weekend where we finally came through and landed kings on the swing. However, we would have to wait and fish our butts off to reach that moment in time.
Our first day consisted of swinging flies in the rain, upriver. Wet and cold we were wishing, watching, and hoping that something would tug at the end of our lines and awake us from our tired stupor. Whispers of steelhead in the river only added to our frustration. Our resolve was put to the test as absolutely nothing happened. We took to doing some exploration to find some new water for later in the season.
Early the next morning, we decided that our best chances to fulfill our goal was to head back to the DSR. We took position in a side channel where we had luck two weekends prior. Almost immediately, Adam was into a fresh steelhead. I struggled in the low light to get a clear picture, but I captured a grin of satisfaction in between a thick fall beard. It was the first of the year and my flash emanated off its fresh silver sides.
A few hours later, and a ways downstream, Adam repeated the feat, landing a male steelhead in some super fast water. Both fish fell to Senyo sculpin tubes in orange and pink with violent takes on the swing. I happened to be strolling through a wooded trail, when I captured the take. In between a tall series of sycamores sporting their best fall colors, Adam played a slab of chrome, landing it mid river.
The moment arrived several hours later. Three years of early fall trips, sleep deprivation, a hundred or so cans of red bull, and all that gas money boiled down to being in the right spot at the right time. I decided to fish a small pocket of water near an island in the middle of the river. I simply plopped my fly into the rapids, let them pull my fly and t-11 into the hole before leading the rig into the slow stuff. A hard tug ensued and I set low and hard downstream. A violent symphony of water ensued as my first king head shaked and rolled out of the hole and into the current. Downstream, I beached her on a bed of leaves to admire her spots contrasting sharply with the fall foliage. In the skinny water, she powered away and continued her journey upstream to meet her maker.
The last hour of the day was surreal. We happened upon a hole that had a fair amount of kings along its bottom. They were obviously awaiting the cover of darkness to make the remaining trip upstream. Being close to the lake, they were fresh enough for some fun. Six hookups followed, many ending downstream where tippet broke and hooks came loose. In the middle of the raucous, I subdued a large male sporting a coat of late run bronze. I couldn't believe that three years of effort boiled down to one hour of mayhem. It was worth it.
Adam and I didn't want to leave the fish behind, but we had no choice, and no watch. The gates closed at 6:30 and light was fading fast. We didn't know how to get out. Nonetheless, I decided to take one more cast. I hooked up with another large male before a headshake sent the fly back into my chest. We knew time was of the essence. We found the trail, made the hike out only to be scolded for our lateness. We arrived panting in the parking lot at 6:31. Wet and muddy, we threw our rods in the Jeep and hopped on in. The employees followed us out.
It is always surprising when the effort put into a singular fish is rewarded. Dispositions tend to shift wildly as frustration gives way to utter bliss. A normally long six hour drive back to work the next morning, suddenly goes by in a breeze. The memory of the fish keeps you afloat for the work week, until the next time your on the water and find yourself in that moment. Fishermen strive for that, yearn for it, and often do crazy things to achieve it.
If you want it, why not go and get it?