Confessions Of A Mediocre Angler: From The Dean
The run stretches farther than my eye can see. I have to keep casting. Covering water. Searching. Gaining consciousness I realize how tired I am. I need sleep. For three nights running the dream awakens me. Steelhead have a way of messing with your mind. I’ve been off the water for days but the river and the fish won’t leave me.
Steelheading requires a combination of luck and skill. I’m not exactly sure where the balance of the equation lies. Overtime a better angler will hook more fish, but it’s hard to know how long it will take to actualize that reality. A healthy dose of randomness means that a seasoned steelheader might go fish less while someone junior in experience has a hot hand.
Days go by waiting for a grab. Doubt sets in. Questioning the swing, the fly, the water, the fish itself. Superstition arrises. Maybe it’s my socks, hat, or gum. At times I effortlessly bomb casts with confidence, fishing with the certainty that the next swing will connect. Then it all falls apart. I blow my anchor, get tangled in running line, try to muscle the cast. I take a deep breath. Slow down. Regroup and stick with it.
Then the line comes tight and it’s unmistakable. Phantom pecks and snagged rocks are nothing like the freight train of fresh steelie on the line. Sometimes it only lasts seconds. Line rips form the reel, the chrome beauty goes areal, cartwheeling across the river, only to unbutton. It’s all part of the deal. But when the stars align and it all works out there is nothing like it. To cradle a fish that has journeyed to the ocean, dodged nets, seals and who knows what else, to return to its natal river gives us a glimpse into the impressive life history of one of the great salmonids. They change you in ways well beyond post-trip insomnia.