You can tell a lot about the character of a person by how they describe the weather. If it needs to be sunny and warm they fall into one camp. If the threat of rain causes concern or a frost warning changes travel plans, then another. If winter weather causes you to pick up your smart phone every 30 minutes to check the river level and you own more GoreTex than neckties, you my friend are probably a Steelheader.
It’s a small family, we who like bad weather and the thousand casts between stone cold Steelhead who don’t want to move to a perfectly presented wad of feather offerings, but then again most cousins all stem from the same DNA.
This time of year, the wiles of Northern California’s classic Steelhead waters call for the strong willed and cold blooded Spey chuckers who can’t think of anything they’d rather do. I’ve had the sickness a very long time, and last weekend I enjoyed spreading the germs to Joel.
For mid-winter between rains, we did well. Fish down there are shorter and more shouldery than their North Umpqua and Deschutes cousins that make for electric experiences. Certainly, Joel connected with nearly every sliver of silver and red that graced the runs as you might expect. However, unlike so many other tales ours also involved lunch at a yacht club, landing the largest fish at dusk with a mile of river and a class three rapid yet to float, and the hindsight knowledge that seven spey rods, 50 mph, and magnets don’t really do well in the same committee.
All aside, its winter and time to download and study your river levels. There is no better way to catch winter Steelhead than to know your home water- or call a cousin.
Jason A. Atkinson served 14 years in the Oregon Legislature and has just produced the national documentary “A River Between Us” and the book Inside Out (available at Royal Treatment). He is a Rodel Fellow with the Aspen Institute, a commentator and speaker on a wide range of issues. For more: www.jasonaatkinson.com and www.ariverbetweenus.com.