As for most of us, fall has been a long year. Grad school and teaching didn’t synch well, and I never really found time to get out fishing. It was probably just as well for me that the fall steelhead season west of the Cascades was closed. Christmas was good but that weird space between Christmas and New Year was hopefully going to give me a chance to refill my cup. I was disappointed Snowpocalypse 2021 didn’t turn out to be a thing, but it meant the local river came into shape and I was hellbent on getting out.
Monday, I put my waders and boots on in the garage and took off. I didn’t feel like getting dressed in the cold and snow. If you haven’t considered bootfoot waders, this week was a good time for them. They would have been nice. Being from Houston, snow still makes me giddy. So I get to my spot and there is one other person there gearing up. I give a “hey, what’s your plan” with the intention of letting them get to their spot and making do. I didn’t need to start the season with bad karma. I had the foresight to get my waders ready and make sure I had warm layers. I had my winter box and spare hooks, gloves, even my reel, and rod made it safely into the rig. Know what I didn’t check? I still had a Scandi on. It gave me time to them a head start. After a slight delay, I head to where I thought they would be, thinking I’d jump in behind. Turned out they were fishing a different run, so I had my intended run. Two times through the run, I got nothing but breaking the rust-free. Damn, I am rusty. It didn’t matter. There was snow, peace, quiet, and a flowing river. You know what it’s like.
Did I mention that it was chilly Monday? Yeah, back at the truck, breaking down my gear, I realize that 3 sections of my rod are frozen together. Not stuck, but iced together. In the truck, they went for another lesson learned.
After shaking it off, I knew I needed to get back out Tuesday. So I made coffee and got the sourdough going for a pizza dinner, I was off. Who is still doing sourdough, by the way?
The same place, earlier start. No tire tracks in the snow, I realize I’m first in. Compared to Monday, Tuesday was balmy. More snow and a bit foggy, but balmy. After Monday’s cluster, I’m quicker to the river which is perfect cuz another vehicle pulls up as I set out. At the rig, I’d tied on something red to keep the rod and line together, but when I got to the river, I wasn’t feeling it. Into my box I go, and I find what I’m looking for. Something blue. Then I chuckle because I see my previous knot from another time at this run back in 2020. I’d used 20lb Maxima for the leader and hooked a fish on the same fly. Go look for the report, Jan 2020. Back right before Covid! Or was that five years ago? Who knows?
Anyways, I tie on this lucky blue fly and start swinging and stepping. I haven’t made many casts before I have company below me, the latecomer. Fortunately, they need to rig up. A couple more casts and there it is. The beautiful click of my Perfect as a fish takes. I let the fish take line until it doesn’t, and I start reeling. I see a dark shape in the air and a splash. Late Comer is suddenly curious and watching from downstream. The fish and I keep dancing and I realize it isn’t coming as high as me, so I keep reeling and working my way down. Another shorter run, then it ran into the bank. I’m thinking maybe it’s a big sucker, this is weird. I finally get down to slower water and the fish isn’t ready yet, but I can see it’s a nice steelie. I get to a good spot and tail the fish. Right there in the corner, was blue. Then I realized that I’d forgotten my hemostats. Dammit. More rust falls.
A short video and a picture for proof. The fish cooperates and I remove the hook without much drama. I remember that trick about gripping the top and bottom of the tail to keep the fish from fighting. So much to remember. I smile at the shoulders and colors while reviving the fish. It swims off and as I stand up, Late Comer has jumped in and casts. Whatever. I’ve tailed a fish and the weariness of the past eternity has largely been rinsed off.