It’s March and I’d been anxiously watching the weather forecast and the river flows for weeks. The text message I’d just received from Jerry said, “The lower river is in awesome shape. Troy’s been nailing-em for weeks”.
Attached to his text was a picture of himself standing in clear, low water with a mint-bright hen that could only be the lower-stretch of my favorite Pacific North West winter steelhead river.
After cramming the pontoon boats in the back of the truck, Dave & I hit the road for the long drive North.
Just as we were approaching, I got a text from Brandon (my brother) telling us where he was fishing so we could meet up. And then another that said, “I just had a really nice grab”. Followed 2 minutes later with, “Ah man… some gear guys in a driftboat just nailed one right below me”.
We met up with Brandon and made plans for the next day. He said he hadn’t seen the lower river this sweet in years.
Anticipation was high but there was rain in the forecast, grrr…
Over night the river came up some but the color was still OK at the launch.
By the time we’d shuttled the vehicles it was already on its way out – damnit
We were already committed at this point so decided to make the best of it and try to get in as much decent fishing as possible.
We got to fish through a couple of nice runs in the upper drift…
…but the river was rising and coloring-up fast.
It was a cold, wet, white-knuckle, tough day of not-catching…
…and Dave was still a little shaken-up from the drift when we got back to the truck.
All I could say was…
“Welcome to Winter Steelhead fishing on the Hoh River”.
The next day…
Brandon went back to Seattle last night. With the water high, and no foreseeable break in the forecast, it was clear that Dave & I would be fishing the upper river the remainder of our time.
It rained, it hailed, it snowed, and it rained some more…
…but that’s steelhead fishing up here, this time of year.
Luckily, in all but the worse storms, you can usually go far enough up river and still find fishable water.
And every once in a while… the clouds would break and the warm sun would tease through…
…just long enough to remind you of what you’d been missing.
Then… the next weather cell would move in.
The light would suddenly dim, the wind would come out of nowhere, and you’d quickly find yourself frantically cinching-up your hood as the rain, sleet, snow, and hail pummeled you.
And if you were really lucky, it would come with ear-shattering lightning bolts that were so close they rattled your bones and sent you sprinting off the open gravel bar for the nearest cover…
As we were hunkered-down waiting for the lightning to pass, Dave looks up and says, “You know Squyres, you could just use a gun and get it over with… “.
…I’ve got to give the guy some credit.
There aren’t too many dudes I’ve met that will endure this kind of torture for a fish – with a smile…
…For many, it seems to be the one-time “experience”, the “adventure”, the “story”, they’re after. Unfortunately, once is typically enough for them. “Been there, Done-that”, is their mantra.
For me… I think it’s a lot of the same, plus the simple challenge of achieving something I want, at whatever cost – it’s that “high”, only achievement brings, that sense of accomplishment. Plus a million other reasons I still don’t understand.
For Dave? I’m still not sure. But for him to still be smiling, jovial, and good company at this point, definitly gets my respect and is a good example of why I like fishing with the guy.
Steelhead fishing is a numbers-game. Pay your dues, put in your time, and the fish will come.
At least that’s what we tell ourselves, cast-after-mindnumbing-cast…
…But I swear it’s true!
And apparently… Dave & I had finally stuffed enough quarters into this trip’s machine for it to finally pay-out…
Tomorrow I take Dave to the Airport in Seattle and then turn around to come back to fish with Brandon. Looks like more crappy weather in the forecast… Bring it on!