Playing the Player

All day I had been swinging my fly through some of the best steelhead water on the planet, but I hadn’t connected with a fish. The Dean had been kind to me over the past few days and I was utterly spoiled on what was my first steelhead trip. Still, I was addicted to the pull and trying hard to finish the day with at least a pluck.

The sun was about to dip behind the mountains, I had 20 minutes before it would be time to call it a day. Just above the juiciest part of the run I felt a subtle peck, unmistakable for anything but a fish, then nothing. Trying to remain calm, I moved ten feet upstream and swung through the spot again. Nothing.

Five days prior I would have kept moving downstream, assuming my chance was gone. But I had spent every waking moment for the past few days trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible from the experienced steelheaders I was with. Trying to go from unconsciously incompetent to raw novice.

At this moment Justin pulled up in the boat, letting me know we needed to get back to camp pretty soon. Ten more minutes was an easy compromise.

With a slow breath, that was counter to my nature, I backed upstream a second time. Clipping off the large pink intruder, I tied on something smaller, still pink. Stepping back into the run I tried to muster my confidence and transfer it into every cast. Then came the familiar peck, followed by another. I had become a bit quick on the draw, causing me to loose a few fish, so I was trying desperately to let this one hang himself. My right arm was straight down by my side, not budging, with the rod tip pointed directly at the fish.

Peck, peck, peck. The small loop I help in my hand slowly began to come taught, I remained motionless. Line began to leave the reel engaging the drag, finally I lifted the rod, we were connected! “You played the player” Justin hollered from the bank. Rocketing downstream the fresh steelhead cartwheeled through the air. Minutes later I was on my knees, cradling a fish that only hours ago had just left the salt beginning his journey upriver.

Every fish up to this point had pretty much been an accident or attributable solely to the place and those around me. This time I put into action my own plan, utilizing what I had learned and it paid off. This was not the largest fish I touched, but it was easily the most memorable.

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