Saturday, December 26, 2015
An Early Christmas Gift
It had been several weeks since I had picked up a rod, so when my friend Camron came into town and suggested we try for some steelhead, I happily agreed. At 7 am, I received a text letting me know I would be fishing alone this morning; Camron's wife had gotten sick and he decided losing points wasn't a good idea. So I headed to my favorite Boise River steelhead spot and began fishing. I had to work at 10 am, so 2 hours in the cold rain would be just the right amount.
I tied on a green leech and trailed an egg pattern behind it. I worked the water thoroughly in one spot where I have hooked a few fish in the past. The rain began to turn to snow as I waded over to my most productive cut bank. I have taken numerous steelhead in this location, but as the morning faded with no hook ups in this spot either, I decided to try a different technique.
I have taken many steelhead under a strike indicator in Idaho and Alaska, so I figured I'd give that a try for my last half hour on the water. I put on a different egg pattern and bobbered up! I walked upstream to a good looking run and started fishing.
My first couple casts indicated I was set at a good depth. I watched the indicator as it gently drifted through the run, bumping the bottom occasionally. I put a little more effort into my next cast, sending my flies into the overhanging tree strategically planted next to the river to eat flies and lures. The worst thing you can do when your flies decide to perch in the trees is to yank them out immediately. The best thing to do is wait, and often times they will fall out on their own, or a gentle pull will free your hook back into the water. I waited a few moments and my egg pattern swung back over the branch and fell into the water. Yes! The indicator drifted downstream and took a dive. I set the hook and the fish took off with the strength of a bonefish. Woooo! This was obviously a steelhead.
The fish battled for his life as he flung himself out of the water. Up and down the river he went with the strength of a fresh chrome fish, quite uncharacteristic of the usual Boise River type. Again he cartwheeled across the surface of the water, desperately trying to shake the hook. This fish was feisty! After another several minutes and a couple more jumps, he was ready for apprehension. Netting a large fish is difficult enough, let alone when you're by yourself and you have a small trout net. Regardless, patience paid off, and after dancing with the fish for a couple minutes in the shallows, I landed him.
I could barely keep the fish still enough for a photo as he squirmed and tried to kick back into the depths of the river. After a couple quick photos, I knelt beside the fish and thought of what I should do. I normally keep Boise River steelhead, but this one showed so much life and I had no means of processing him before work.
Another strong pulse of energy through the fish's body told me he deserved another day in the river. Maybe myself or someone else will be able to catch him again. I let go of his tail and he surged back into the dark cold waters of the Boise River.
I fished my way back downstream with my remaining 10 minutes on the water. I closely watched my indicator with a fresh sense of optimism. There had to be more steelhead left in this run, I could bump into one at any moment... Just then, my indicator went under and my reflexes couldn't have been faster. I immediately felt tension, telling me my hook had connected with something solid. I waited for the usual slow steelhead shake. I received no such feeling and my hopes faded quickly. I continued to pull back on my rod, and the object I had hooked slowly came toward me until it broke the surface.
How a hook can find it's way into a tiny tunnel on a rock is beyond me. Some would take this as a sign that their luck is about to increase and a steelhead is waiting for them on the next cast. Others might take it as a sign to stop fishing. Since I had to be at work in 25 minutes, I was forced to adhere to the latter.
I reeled my line in and walked back to my truck. I believe any quick trip before work that results in a landed steelhead is a gift, and with Christmas just a couple days away, I considered that steelhead to be an early Christmas gift.