Late October and I still hadn't caught my first steelhead of the year. Stubborn as could be, it had to be on the swing and three weekend excursions left me empty handed and broken hearted. During a Sunday spent downriver, I was about to realize my goal.
Hanging downstream was twenty feet of Rio Skagit Short, attached to a T-11 MOW tip, and a few feet of tippet. A purple tandem tube dangled precariously, its magnum rabbit strip swimming against a current of water. The line arched upstream into a circle spey, falling back to the water forming the anchor needed to launch the heavy set up. A spray of water known as the "white mouse" moved upstream as the skagit head arched at a 45 degree angle into a d-loop. The rod bent to the cork before launching 525 grains, a T-11 sinktip, and 4 inches of tungsten rabbit strip across stream. I dropped the rod tip enough for the rig to fall under the overhanging branches on the opposite bank. My upstream hand lifted the line off the water, mending it just enough for my fly to get in the zone. I waited until the perfect moment before leading my fly through the seam. The pull came almost immediately as eight pounds of chrome arched against the current.
The land came a minute later. During that moment in time, the fish ran downstream peeling line off my reel. She turned completely around and stormed back upstream creating a massive belly in my line. I struggled to keep up. In those brief seconds, the T-11 wrapped around a rock and the action ceased. Fearing the worst, I marched into the middle of the river, unwrapped the line, and once again felt the weight of steel. I brought her into the shallows and beached the hen on some cobbles. With the hook coming loose, the fish darted back to its run, as the shutter closed on the DSLR. My first two steelhead of the season evaded capture by the camera, but I was able to take a mental snapshot that won't be forgotten. It is hard to forget the sight of chrome burning its image into your corneas.