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OP Winter Steelhead with Dave

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”.

Spey Rod on Truck - Hoh River

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

Pontoon Boats - Hoh River

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.

Dave Fulthorpe Steelhead Fly Fishing High Water - Hoh River

Dave

We got to fish through a couple of nice runs in the upper drift…

Hoh River Log Jam 1

…but the river was rising and coloring-up fast.

Hoh River Log Jam 2

Dave Fulthorpe Wading Hoh River

Dave Retreating

Upper Hoh Log Jam

Ho River Log Jam 2

It was a cold, wet, white-knuckle, tough day of not-catching…

Brandon Squyres Watermaster in the Rain

My brother Brandon

…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.

Spey Rod Racks in the Rain
It rained, it hailed, it snowed, and it rained some more…

Upper Hoh River National Park Moss

…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.

Doug Steelhead Fishing Olympic Penninsula

Me in the upper river

Hoh River 1

Hoh River Elk

Hoh River 2

And every once in a while… the clouds would break and the warm sun would tease through…

Dave Fulthorpe Hoh River and Rainbow

…just long enough to remind you of what you’d been missing.

Dave Fulthorpe Spey Casting

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…

Hoh River Hail Storm - Doug

My pathetic attempt to take cover from lightning

Spey Rods and Hail

What the HAIL!

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…

Hoh River Hail Storm - Dave

Dave ducking-down a lightning storm

…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.

Upper Hoh River

Steelhead fishing is a numbers-game. Pay your dues, put in your time, and the fish will come.

Right?

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…

Doug Squyres Winter Steelhead Fishing Hoh River

Ahhhh Yeahhhh…

Olympic Penninsula Steelhead Fly Fishing

Doug fighting steelhead 1

Doug fighting steelhead 2

Doug with Hoh River Colored-up Steelhead

Colored-up, but not a complaint in the world…

Colored-up Hoh River Steelhead

Dave Fulthorpe with Hoh River Steelhead

Absolutely no shame at all – Gotta love Dave…

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!

Check out part 2 of this 3-part trip: Part 2 – OP Steelhead with Brandon.

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