I think it was last Thursday, when I was asked, “Hey, do you want to go Steelhead fishing?” ……..35 minutes later I was in the truck and headed North. THAT is why I have the emergency grab and go camp totes. No muss, no fuss, just grab the minimal and get the hell out of dodge before something like responsible thought process takes the fun out of spontaneity. Works like a charm!
I don’t think I can get publicly scorned for mentioning the river I went to, so here it is. The Little Salmon River. Reports of record Steelhead numbers and gluttonous catch rates are hard to hide anyway.
When we arrived to the hot section of the river, my sweet little Fly Rod with an intimidation factor of a willow stick faced a long line of Ugly Stiks as stout and menacing as Oak trees. Welcome to the combat zone.
The first night I was there I didn’t even wet my line. For one, there wasn’t a spare rock to stand on. Valuable real estate had been claimed earlier in the day and any move to overthrow the current King of that perticular granite was met with death glares and a hint of Marshall law.
Not that I would have tried anyway. In this situation the fact is, spin casters and fly fisherman can’t mix. With so many lines all cast across the river it creates a woven spider web that is precarious and sticky. While I observed, it seemed there was always two or more people ferociously trying to disengage their line from another. Several times during multiple fisherman tangle ups I couldn’t help but think, now that’s what a cluster fu*k looks like….
I’ve never sat around and felt self righteous about my fishing. Honestly, in my mind, I’ve always felt that anyone that is out fishing is all right by me, and I’m holding (trying) onto that mantra. But for one whole evening I sat and watched the show that is Steelhead combat fishing and felt completely separate from those fishing below me. I’m not sure if my feelings fall into the self righteous category, or if my thoughts simply fall into an opinion of a person who prefers the slower pace of fly fishing and utmost care of the fish themselves. Despite the fact we were all fisherman, I did not feel like part of the crowd that evening, at all.
The fisherman below me seemed so frantic about everything they were doing. Cast, reel, cast, get snagged up with other fisherman, untangle, cast, impatience, reel, hook a fish, haul it to top water as fast as possible, hydroplane it across the water, smack it into the rocks, sometimes someone would net the fish….sometimes all the nets were busy with other fish so just yank it up the jagged rocks, put foot on fish to contain it, rip out hook…Native Steelhead? Unceremoniously toss it (from 5 feet or 10 feet up the bank) back in the river. Clipped Steelhead? Toss it up on the bank to flop around (can’t give up the rock real estate) and let it die slowly.
It was exhausting to watch. The Pace. It was also heartbreaking for me personally and at times, frustrating (disgusting) the way the Steelhead were treated. I had a hard time keeping my catch and release practises quietly to myself and risked getting shunned (ass kicked) off the bank with a few vocal suggestions. I’m sure my Fly Rod case resting against my chair didn’t earn me any points, but I believe —again with the feelings/opinions— a little respect is deserved to a fish that just swam all the way from the ocean.
This wasn’t about those who spin cast versus those who fly fish. It was about this specific group of fisherman, all caught up in a contagious frenzy (and there was fish on constantly), not slowing the hell down, taking a second to crawl down the rock carefully and taking care of their fish the right way. Out of the mob, there were a few who took the time to do things ethically and I appreciated those anglers. They were the counter balance to what seemed a hopeless and disturbing night. On that small front, not all seemed lost in the frenzy.
When I started this entry I didn’t know I would go down a righteous river bank. But there it is, spelled out in words from my observations. As for myself and attempting to stake claim to a Fly Fishing safe-zone of river, I did that and hooked many Steelhead. But I think I’ll save that experience for a new entry…..part 2.
I think I wrote plenty for one day.