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I missed the window. Prime time would have been last Saturday, I think. It was almost 50 degrees then, it was raining, and--key factor--the river was still down. General wisdom holds that Steelhead go off the bite in rising rivers.
I had my trip all planned on Saturday, but complications arose that made it impossible to get away. Same with yesterday. And same today until about 3 o'clock when I was finally able to break away for a couple of hours on the river before dark.
I went where I could get to fast, the bridge run. The day was sunny and still relatively warm, but the river, while not blown out, was on the rise. There was still ice along the edges and on the banks, but the run was open. There were a few chunks of ice coming down the river. Most were small, but after a floe as big as a table top came bucketing along I decided to keep an eye out behind me.
I did the drill, working one of my new weighted flies on a sink tip through the length of the run. I wade down the middle and cast to both banks. That stretches out the casting muscles with a single handed rod. I think I can feel it in my shoulders tonight, an indication of how depressingly little I have been casting for the last two months.
The moon had risen by the time I reached the end of the run. Nothing else had risen. A miss.
I waded to the bank and climbed out at the only place I can without wading on into chest deep water, or wading back upstream against a sweeping current for fifty yards. There's a muddy trough right up against the bank which is usually waist deep, but with today's rising water it was well up over the bottoms of my jacket and vest. It's not an easy climb, either, up the steep muddy bank and out of the water. But, once again, I made it.
I changed tactics and rigged with an indicator and my new nymph. This is the first time I've used an indicator for Steelhead since my Pere Marquette days. I drifted that nymph deep all through the tailout of the run, well downstream of where my longest cast can reach when I'm coming down the run from the bridge.
Another miss. I stood in the snow in the dusk and felt that I had done everything I could in the time I had. In fact, I discovered that my restless spirit felt rested after leaning for awhile on the strength of the river, and I felt a deep sense of satisfaction in having hunted well.
General wisdom says the next window will come when the river starts to drop again. Steelhead get more aggressive then. Tomorrow a cool down is forecast to begin. Who knows how long the river will be up--or how high it will get. Or what the weather and ice conditions will be when it does go down.
For now I can honestly say I'm satisfied to wait and see.