From May 5, 2004:
(Note: I present this as a record of a novice Steelhead fisherman. I wouldn't fish over spawning fish today, and am glad I live where the swing is king. But then, never having caught one--well...I did what I did. What is the statute of limitations, anyway?)
It started out to be Trout Time. The trip was good, and the Rest Area was finally open. I rolled into Baldwin and picked up some 1X tippet for streamers, and a trout leader. The day was in the 50's, a welcome change from the cold. The river was beautiful, and I picked up a couple of little Rainbows on my newly-tied Black Matuka.
As that was going on the first canoes of the season came banging and wallowing past full of high school kids observing Senior Skip Day. They were loud but polite, apologizing for their noisy interruption.
Shortly after they were gone I came upon a trout holding on a lip of gravel. I could see him clearly and tried to tempt him with the streamer. No dice. So I tied on a length of 6X and a little bead head nymph. On the third drift over him he turned, looped back and up, and took. It was beautiful, and when I held him in my hand he was a chunky 14 inch Brown. Very nice.
I decided to range as far downriver as I could and came to one of my favorite stretches, a shallow, fast stretch, cobble bottom, and flowing through cedars and pines. I immediately saw big fish holding on the gravel stretch in fast water. Steelhead! So, what the hell, I started lobbing egg flies at them. There was a pair doing their spawning thing, and another fish hovering like a ghost behind them. I took it to be a big trout hanging close hoping for a meal of fresh roe. I started aiming for him. By now I was throwing a whitish nuke egg with a pink center, and I could see its drift.
After many lobs I suddenly came up tight on a fish. There was a great boil on the surface and my reel whined as he took off downstream in the strong current. What followed was a long, exhilarating fight in which my reel and 4 wt rod were tested to the max. The fish jumped, and I was certain I was onto a Steelhead. My concern was that I may have foul hooked him.
I was horsing him away from snags, trying to get him out of the current, using everything that 8 lb tippet could give me. I finally got him into some slower water fifty yards downstream from where I hooked him, and guided him up onto gravel in the shallows until he lay there gasping.
What a beautiful fish! A buck, bright reds and deep greens, a good-sized hump and a great yawning kype. And the best thing was the fly firmly in the corner of his jaws. I measured him on my rod, and he turned out to be a heavy twenty-seven inches. I carried him out into the current and revived him until he twisted out of my grip and swam slowly off. Perfect in every way.
I wanted more, so waded back upstream, but didn't land another one. I had another hookup, but my suspicion, based on how he twisted off the hook, is that he was foul hooked.
How do you top that? I headed back upstream and checked my favorite bend for any rising trout, with no luck. So I headed back to the city very satisfied with a day that had turned out to be Steelhead Time.
To be continued.