Up until today, I had never managed to catch a winter steelhead. A few winters back, I would spend hours every chance I got wading up and down the very, very cold Elochoman and Grays Rivers, casting, drifting, and retrieving, over and over, in every different spot I could imagine would hold fish. I never got so much as a bite, and eventually, even I gave it up as a waste of time. Steelhead gear and poles got pushed into a corner of the shop, and nearly forgotten.
Up until a couple of years ago, white water kayaking was something I had never tried, and my first and, until today, only trip on whitewater was with Brian, on the Nehalem River in the winter, chasing a plump and promising looking cedar log, with chainsaws, peavies and other gear lashed to and stowed inside the kayaks. This trip resulted in my first unintentional wet exit from a kayak in a long time, and those of you who know me well have probably heard that story. Fortunately for both Brian and I, neither of us had cameras with us that day, and neither of us wrote about it in our blogs.
A few days back, Brian called me up and invited me to come down and go kayaking and fishing on the Nehalem, and, since I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, I agreed. I got down there last night and had a pleasant, quiet and early New Year’s eve, playing with the cats in the main house at Revolution Gardens.
We got on the water this morning just before dawn, and started down the river, stopping and fishing wherever it looked promising. To our amazement, we nearly had the whole river to ourselves. We encountered only about a dozen bank fisherman and one raft all day.
I’ve spent so many hours casting, drifting and retrieving without success that it sort of becomes a mindless repetitive exercise, which is a nice break from the occasional bout of despair and frustration at how many hours have been spent accomplishing so little.
So it was a big surprise when, on one of the zillion drifts of the day, I actually hooked a steelhead. Better yet, I actually caught it using one of the spinners I had made years ago when I was doing this every weekend. We eventually got it in the net, and it even turned out to be a hatchery fish, meaning I could keep it.
This amazing burst of activity energized us, and we spent the next hour or so, combing the surrounding waters. I lost a couple of spinners, and eventually decided I was done fishing for the day, but Brian persisted until he had covered both sides of that section of the river very thoroughly. No more fish.
When we got back to the shop, Brian posed the fish for a nice whitewater kayak picture, and I snapped one, too.
Maybe it’s time to revisit this whole winter steelhead thing, after all…