Thursday, November 10, 2011

Swinging in the Mist

In between sips of red bull, I remembered watching the temperature plummet as we drove north towards the closest steelhead. Arriving, I stepped out of the Jeep and into a frozen landscape completely different than the one I had left six hours earlier. It was pitch black without a cloud in the sky as I placed my waders on. My hands unfamiliar to the chilly air, ached as I laced up. I yearned for a handwarmer. Soon, Adam and I made our way riverside down a well worn trail that thousands of anglers march upon each season. We rigged up under headlamps and the glow of Orion's belt finishing with enough time to watch the first light peak over the horizon and shoot through the trees. The morning fog hovered precariously on the water for the first hour of light. The best time to catch a steelhead on the swing.

The run we found ourselves on was slowly moving and had a depth of 4-5 feet. Downed trees lined the far bank providing cover for the fish. My chance came first. I casted slightly upstream allowing my unweighted prom dress to descend in the water column. With a downstream mend, I raced it across the pool and infront of a snag of trees in the water. The pull came immediately. I clamped down on my running line and raised the rod hoping to tie into a nice fish. The running line had other ideas. It slipped through my numb fingers and the hook set failed miserably. A simple headshake by the fish and an eruption of water ensued as my only chance of the day glided back to the snag.

Downstream, I heard a whole lot of commotion as Adam lets out a series of expletives celebrating a fish. The elation soon turned to horror. The steelhead on the end of the line looked like it went through hell. Slightly emaciated, with a bronze color, the fish looked like it had been hooked thirty times over. It  didn't even look like a steelhead, even though it was. The fish was released back into the river, where hopefully it recoups or some other angler puts it out of its misery.

Soon, the first drift boats rolled into the run, parked directly across from us, and began hooking up left and right. The first hour of light came to a close and the chances of bringing up a fish on the swing diminished greatly. Along with our chances, the mist and fog receded as the sun came upon the water providing relief to our frozen hands. The rest of the day was spent fighting crowds of anglers, more crowds than salmon season. Looking back, the best part was the beginning, swinging in the mist.


HighPlainsFlyFisher said...

Good shit there...and damn those crowds , leave it to the masses to screw things up.

Matt said...

Evocative writing in this post. Very nice. But I don't know how you guys deal with the combat fishing. It would be fine if people were respectful to each other and the fish, but we know that's not how it goes for most. It's - hook as many fish as possible, don't worry who you're being rude to in the process, and handle the fish without respect. Glad you guys are able to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings to the exclusion of the knuckleheads. Thanks for sharing your experience.