FFFFFish on!!!! Screamed my client from the top of a great piece of steelhead water. I watched as his rod buck with every twist of the fish and as I made my way up to his location I gave confident words of encouragement as the shooting head sizzled out into the green powerful flow of the Deschutes river for the second time. Now as we stood together slowly guiding the perfect catch toward my hands, we saw the fish for the first time. A fine fish perfect form tip to tail, robust green, many dark spots to contrast just a hint of a pastel pink from the tail to the gill plate, Heavy for her length of only 21 inches.
Just a small one… a wimper of disappointment in the mans voice. Almost at a loss for words with my heart breaking for the simple fact that this man had no idea what he had just accomplished. Fought good didn’t she, I said. Yeah hit my backing on the first run, he replied. What more could you ask for?
Well I read that the average size for this river was 5 to 8 pounds. It is, I shot back. That fish was maybe a bit over 4 pounds as I calmed myself. Are you a gambling man I asked? A bit he said. Your odds of catching one that size are about as good as getting a 10 pound fish aren’t they. Hesitantly he said, well I guess so. Not in the mood to go into the proper mind set of a true steelhead angler. I simply patted him on the back and said keep your fly in the water and the rivers you fish will teach you what you need to know.
The fact of the matter is with trout guys its inches and steelhead guys it is pounds. In the end what does it really mean. Not a damn thing, that’s right not a damn thing. For those of us who fish the size is the last thing on our minds. I mean are we trying to compare fish like we refer to a women breasts. I hope not, I hope those of us who fish we see something more than that.
When we look at the health of a stream, there are keys to know how healthy the ecology of a stream is. Water temps, dissolved oxygen, insect species and habitat, all those aside genetic diversity is what relates most here. Genetic diversity is simply the size and age range of fish in a streams ecosystem. A healthy stream has a wide range of fish where there are equal numbers of members in each size and age category.
All that this comes down to is if every where you fished the fish where all the same general size shape and color. We will also say you caught them on basicly the same fly. The only things different in the equation would be the back ground and the take. In the world that I just drew for you things seem kinda boring, but in this world their would be no I caught a big one or I got a little one, their would only be the fact that you fished and you fished the best water to the best of your ability. That in it self would be a fine reward for a day on the water.
Now I now going to lie about getting a bit excited when I catch a big one, but I wear my smile the same for the small guys too, and some day I just smile for a day well spent casting.
“Big or small, shit, your lucky the steelhead ate your fucking fly at all. Quote John Hazel.”
Here I sit facing my computer trying to focus on writing but the window to the rear of the computer keeps getting my attention. The glare of light rerflecting off the fresh inch of snow reminds me that a new season is in the cool crisp air. This winter bringing the promise of fresh brite fish to our favorite winter steelhead rivers. This thought in it self keeps my fingers from the keys and my blood pumping warm. The indoor nature of the holidays lets us remember the last years great victories, brake throughs, and even good fish lost.
In the doldrums days of winter where you might be stuck with your family, or the rivers are at their extremities ( high, low, off color). When we are in these situtions are focus must turn to keep our minds in the game. Tying flies, building lines, and cutting sink tips are all good ideas. Organizing gear bags, cleaning reels and rods, changing out running lines are what we really should be doing.
I wish i could predict the up comming winter season, and tell all of you that we are going to whale on the bad boys this year. The simple fact is nobody can. The only way to achieve success in the world of swung fly steelhead fishing is to go fishing. Being selfish with ones time on the river is the only way to ensure that the sometimes redundant act of casting and stepping and casting and stepping will eventualy lead to the pinnacle of the bent throbbing rod attacted to the bright, hard bodied, crome, smooth steelhead. The scales of this fish alone on close inspection can often tell a story that speaks of the journey only a true wild specimen of wonderful oceans of the northwest can produce.
The last thing that I would like to leave you with on the first post, is be creative don’t be afraid to use new flies change tips , and fish new water. Tight lines Travis Johnson