The most common question faced by someone growing a beard has got to be 'Why?' Friends and strangers have asked, and I've even asked myself at times. It is a fair question, especially when your 'winter' never drops below 80 degrees. I've never had anything better than 'why not' lined up as a reply until last week, on the Salmon River, when I found the answer.
I was home for the holidays. I left behind the sun, sand and salt for family, old friends and winter weather. The plan was to spend three days fishing the Salmon for some thinly-spread steelhead and even more sporadic browns. It would be my first time on this river, with my brother and Adam, who've both experienced it at the height of chinook season. Those dark times they barely talk about, only to refer to it as 'the shit show' while shaking their heads. The weather and the lack of salmon kept about a billion people off of the banks, even allowing us to find a few hours of quiet, snow-laden solitude.
Mark and Adam have become professionals at so-called 'suicide runs' to the tributaries. Leaving late at night, they time their arrival with the sun or the opening of a local fly shop. We left a little after 2am and weren't the first people at the fly shop four hours later.
We suited up in a more or less empty parking lot as the snow fell around us. I miss snow and cold weather. I was almost giddy as we made first tracks down a path to a bend in the river. The quiet of a winter forest as it snows is unlike any other quiet.
The temps hovered below 20F, with wind gusts of us t0 25mph. The fish were not biting, but we were enjoying ourselves. Condensation from my breath combined with the winds and falling snow resulted in a beard that was as iced-up as the guides on our rods, but my face was warm.
We waded, fished and trekked all day in search of fish, finally finding a few in a narrow braid off of the main stem. Water temps of 33F allowed us to net them all in under a minute.
Adam, catching up
That night, with temps predicted to reach the single digits, we decided to find a motel instead of sleeping in the truck. Were we getting soft, or was $20 a night for cable and a hot shower just a bit too cheap to pass up?
We slept the best sleep we've ever slept on a trip like this, and woke up a bit later than planned for another day searching out fish on the Salmon.