Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Last Grab

I've fished Idaho waters when you were lucky to see a steelhead. For years the only fish we'd see had been caught by methods other than fly. Didn't matter, at that juncture you were just glad to see one. Such an occasion lent hope to the next run. A few years would pass before a tug brought me that much closer to holding a steelhead that had traveled over 800 miles to take my fly. That in and of itself is amazing!

Those early years in the Lower 48 were bleak. On many byways they still are. Were once the worlds largest run of sea run fish ran free, they now hang in the balance infused with fish of hatchery origins that only make their existence more tenuous.

Yet, in all of this, as an angler, I have great respect for these fish. They travel the same arduous journey and migrate through the same challenging gauntlet as their dwindling wild relatives. Although they don't quite measure up to a wild fish, they do command a certain respect and admiration, for they to are survivors.
My last outing of the year was one of my best. Sub freezing temperatures that historically freezes ones hands, guides and feet, were gratefully absent. It's been that way for several years now. And although the fishing has been good for the past several years, this year was more than generous.

My friend, caught his first steelhead. It came on the last day. He was already headed down the addictive road after our first trip. Once he landed his first steelie, he was history. I'm waiting to have to explain his delusional state to his wife, especially come next season.

On that last day, I drummed up a ghost in a new piece of water. Several head shakes later and a few clicks from the reel the fish was gone. It was rewarding confirmation that will serve me well on another day. Towards days end I briefly felt another fish. It was a solid grab that ended as quickly as it occurred. Know it was my last I thought the encounter was fitting. Looking back to those early years, an unmistakable grab would have been reason alone for joyous celebration. On this trip it was more than just.

Shortly afterwords I chewed the fly from its leader, carefully placed it in it's box, and reeled in the line. Before leaving I took a moment to take in the canyon, it sounds and breath the damp smell of a river corridor that holds onto a certain rawness. It'll be another years before I fish these waters again. I remembered the grab and the years where a physical presence was only a figment of an imagination. Heading home, the rain darkens the desolate two lane road. We are fortunate to have fish in these waters now. We don't talk about it, but we wonder for how long.

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