Many of our readers may wonder why, whilst in high season of one of the most prolific steelhead fisheries in the world, we spend so much time talking about carp and smallmouth and just about everything else that swims. Well, my day on the water yesterday should serve as explanation enough.
Indeed, the perils of another spring steelhead season have befallen us.
My day started yesterday at 5:30 AM. I showered, layered-up, pulled gear, packed lunch, and made coffee. All standard fare, and all the while the hound was on my heels. Unfortunately he wouldn't be joining me this day. I told him so as I walked out the door, and he stared back at me with broken-hearted puppy eyes.
I loaded up the tiny dancer with gear and lunches and was about to pull out when I realized I'd forgotten my cell phone. I opened the door to the house and was greeted by the unmistakable sound of liquid hitting carpet. I looked through the kitchen and into the dining room to see the contents of my wife's purse torn through, my dog pissing spitefully under the dining room table. He didn't even think about stopping as I screamed his name and threatened his ultimate demise.
After getting a handle on my domestic disaster, I had the pleasure of introducing two first-time fly fishers to the river. We were working out the, ahem, kinks, and things were going along swimmingly when suddenly a figure came charging out of the woods, ripping line off his reel and throwing surface-slapping overhead casts... With his 12 foot spey rod. He proceeded to nuzzle into our cozy little bunch of fly fishers, cutting my downstream angler's drift short by a good 10 feet.
I approached him and politely requested that he give us a little room. His response?
"C'mon Man, how much room you need? I know you been to PA, they fish a lot closer than this."
I offered a rebuttal, in response to which he puffed out his chest, made another horrendous attempt at a spey cast, and took a step closer. I decided to let it be (he had a considerable height/weight advantage) and we fished out the run in unfortunate proximity to each other. He made a dozen or so attempts at a fishable cast, and threw me a number of poop-faced looks before he finally gave up. I figured that was the end of it.
Then, he marched to our upstream side, ripped off some more line, and went back to flailing.
After 15 contentious minutes he finally turned tail, but only after he'd sufficiently chafed my program. On principle, I waited until he was out of sight, and then pulled chocks myself.
Later in the day, with a few fish under our belts (including a gorgeous near 30" buck taken on the swing) I was sitting on a log observing when two anglers appeared above us on the far bank. One of them pointed with his rod, first here, then there, whispering to his buddy. My neck hair began to stand on end.
"Well, you guys seein' any?" he inquired.
One of my anglers replied: "Yea it's been pretty good for us. Couple nice ones."
"Yea, but are you seeing any? Or are they all down here in the deep water?"
"No, we hooked 'em right in here," pointing to the juiciest part of a picture-perfect run.
A look of despair began to come over the Redd Reaper's face.
"Yea, that's what I thought. They're just not on the beds yet. I walked all the way to X and back and checked all the usual spots. They're all hiding in the deep water. What'd ya get 'em on? Sucker spawn?"
"Yea," he droned, his hopelessness betraying him. "I can dead drift a little bit, but I just don't have time to fish like that, ya' know?"
He whispered again to his buddy before the two of them retreated from the river, sullen and downtrodden over the lack of vulnerable targets.
A few minutes after they'd disappeared into the woods, I heard splashing in the riffle above us and looked over to see a pair of a spawning steelhead, clearly oblivious to the flogging they'd just narrowly avoided.
I shook my head in despair and started counting off the days until June.
Alaska West Video by Magnus Jepson
9 hours ago